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What is a concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Most often, it occurs when you hit your head against an object. This is sometimes called blow to the head. It also can happen from a blow to your neck or body. This causes sudden head movement that jars, or shakes, your brain.
Most people with concussions stay awake after getting hurt. However, some people may lose consciousness. Concussion symptoms may show right away. Some may even appear hours or days later. Symptoms include:
- Headache or pressure in the head
- Trouble focusing
- Memory loss
- Dazed appearance
- Dizziness or balance problems
- Blurry vision
- Trouble hearing
- Slow response to questions
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Changes in sleep, including trouble falling asleep or sleeping more than usual
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How is a concussion diagnosed?
Contact your healthcare provider if you have concussion symptoms after a blow to your head, neck, or body. They may want to know how you got hurt. The healthcare provider may test strength, senses, balance, reflexes, memory, and thinking. Your healthcare provider may order tests to scan your brain. These include computed tomography, also known as a CT scan. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is another test. These scans take pictures of your brain, and check for bleeding, swelling, or fractures.
Can a concussion be prevented or avoided?
There’s no guaranteed way to prevent concussions. However, you can lower your risk.
- Learn proper techniques for your sport or activity.
- Follow all safety rules.
- Use the right protective gear in sports. Make sure it fits and is in good condition.
- Wear a seatbelt in the car.
- Wear a helmet on a bicycle and motorcycle.
- Keep your house free of hazards that could cause trips or falls
If you have a concussion, your brain needs time to heal. It is important to get plenty of rest. Take a break from physical activity. You should also take a mental rest. This means no reading, no watching TV or using a phone or computers. You may need to stay home from work or school for a while. Discuss with your healthcare provider about when you can return to your normal routine.
While you recover you should:
- Drink plenty of fluids, such as water
- Eat healthy foods
- Get enough sleep.
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid operating vehicles or machines.
- Avoid activities that may worsen symptoms or affect your balance. These include being on airplanes, trains, or boats.
- Ask your healthcare provider about taking any medicines.
When you have a concussion, your emotions may change. You may feel frustrated, angry, sad, or confused. Tell your healthcare provider, family, and friends what you’re feeling. They can help provide support
Living with a concussion
Most people get better after a concussion and don’t have lasting brain damage. However, the injury does put you at risk of post-concussion syndrome (PCS). PCS can cause symptoms to last for months or years. Ongoing memory problems are an example.
Don’t return to activities before making a full recovery. A second blow to the head, even a minor one, can be dangerous. You could get a rare condition called second impact syndrome. This is rapid brain swelling that can lead to death.
Having one concussion puts you at risk for future ones. The more concussions you have, the worse they can be. Brain damage can build up and cause other brain injuries.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia
Brain Injury Association of Prince Edward Island