After a concussion occurs, people usually seek medical attention. If the concussed person isn’t in any life-threatening danger, they are sent home. But what is a family member to do, or to look for, to make sure that the concussed person stays okay and does not worsen? Above all, listen to your healthcare professional or concussion specialist. They are experts and can tell you precisely what to look for, how the concussed person should be acting, and what the warning signs are in case of danger. It helps when you leave your healthcare professional’s office if you have the suggestions written down so you don’t forget anything. When a loved one is injured, thing can become hectic and you don’t want to forget a key piece of information!
It is suggested that adults who have concussions avoid alcohol and driving a car, for the duration of the concussion symptoms. If there are any skin or scalp wounds, cleanse them carefully and apply antibiotic ointment. Apply an ice pack to the head for about 20 minutes, every two hours, for the first day following the concussion. Be careful not to apply ice packs directly to the skin, by carefully wrapping the ice pack in a thin towel. A concussed person is advised to take it easy for a day or two, and should stick to a clear liquid diet for the first day, to avoid side effects of concussion such as nausea or vomiting. It is suggested that concussed people be given acetaminophen for pain, and not aspirin or narcotic pain relief.
The family member who is watching over the concussed person should do safety checks every hour or two for the first 24 hours. This means that they check the concussed person’s neurological signs to make sure that their condition has not gotten worse. The concussed person should be able to walk, move arms and legs normally, speak coherently and be awakened easily from sleep during each safety check. If the person cannot move all of their limbs freely, if they cannot walk, if their speech becomes slurred or if they are talking but not making sense, or if they are very sleepy, it can mean that their condition is getting worse and they need prompt medical attention.
There are other warning signs that an at-home caregiver or family member should be on the lookout for. If during a safety check you notice that the concussed person’s pupils are different sizes or do not react to light by shrinking (which is the normal reaction) then that means the person needs immediate medical attention. It does not matter if they can walk, talk, and move. If their pupils are abnormal, they need to be seen! The same applies to any muscle weakness in the legs, a loss of balance, confusion or memory problems, repeated vomiting or any loss of consciousness that occurs after the initial head injury that caused the concussion.
With head and brain injuries you cannot be too careful and as the saying goes, it is always better safe than sorry. Careful observation of a concussed person is vital so that you can be alert to signs that the injury is worsening. Usually after a few days of rest and monitoring, a concussed person will be fine. Just be sure to follow the suggestions of your healthcare professional or concussion specialist so that your loved one doesn’t overdo anything, and can have the swiftest recovery possible!