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What are the danger signs of a concussion?

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Updated January 25, 2014

Unequal Pupils

Unequal pupils can be a sign of traumatic brain injury or an injury to one eye. It can be from a harmless condition called aniscoria, or it can be from an eye doctor appointment, like this is.

(c) Deborah Austin

Question: What are the danger signs of a concussion?

Getting hit in the head is a lot more dangerous than you may think. Early in my paramedic days, we were taught if somebody got knocked out and recovered, then he just had a concussion. And concussions, we were told, were no big deal. Concussions were the head injury equivalent of a near-miss. Today we know that belief is wrong.

Answer: To help you decide when and if to call 911 after a blow to the head, the CDC says to look for these signs and symptoms:

  • Worsening headache that won't go away
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Fumbling or stumbling (decreased coordination)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Unequal pupils (see image)
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Unusual behavior
  • Knocked unconscious (always suspect at least a concussion if someone gets knocked out)

Plus for very young kids, besides all the above signs, you should also look for:

  • Won't stop crying
  • Won't eat or nurse

It doesn't matter if the victim has all these signs and symptoms or just one or two. When in doubt, call 'em out.

Concussions are a big deal. Indeed, having multiple concussions is linked to neurological conditions similar to Parkinson's and Lou Gerig's disease. Despite the danger however, concussions are still considered the mildest form of traumatic brain injury. The biggest problem is telling the difference between a concussion and a more severe traumatic brain injury. Figuring it out requires a CT scan and thorough medical evaluation.

Source:

CDC. "Concussion: What are the Signs and Symptoms of Concussion?" CDC. 8 Mar 2010.

 

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