Concussion occurs when a blow to the head shakes the brain within the space between the brain and the skull. A concussion is the most common type of head injury. A concussion can result from a car crash, a sports injury, a fall, or a violent shake to the head or upper body. Most concussions are temporary but it can lead to associated serious problems if not treated promptly and effectively.
Most importantly, examine the victim carefully and observe for any wound. Check to see if the victim is bleeding. Concussions might not bleed on the surface, but under the scalp, creating a “goose egg” or a hematoma.
Check for physical symptoms
Mild and severe concussions can result in many physical symptoms. Look for any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Severe headache.
- Light sensitivity.
- Double or blurred vision.
- Seeing “stars”, spots or other visual anomalies.
- Loss of coordination and balance.
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in legs and arms.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Obvious confusion
Assess the victim’s level of consciousness
When checking for a concussion, it is important to know whether or not the victim is conscious and oriented. To check the consciousness of the victim, try the AVPU code:
- A – Is the victim alert? – Is the victim watching you with their eyes? Does he answer your questions? Does he respond to normal environmental stimuli?
- V – Does the victim respond to voice? – Does the victim respond when spoken to, even if the response is small and not completely alert? Does he need to be yelled at to respond? A victim can respond to verbal commands and not be alert. A response of “Huh?” when you speak to them means they are verbally responsive, yet not alert.
- P – Does the victim respond to pain or touch? – Pinch skin to see if there is movement or if the victim opens his eyes. Another technique is to pinch or poke the nail bed. Be careful when doing this; you do not want to cause unnecessary harm to the victim. You are simply trying to get a physical response from him.
- U – Is the victim unresponsive to anything attempted?
Treatment of concussion
Firstly, apply ice
Swelling in concussion can be reduced by applying an ice pack to the affected area. Apply ice every two to four hours, for 20-30 minute increments. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Either wrap it in a cloth or plastic. Also do not apply pressure to any head trauma wound as this could push bone splinters into the brain.
Secondly, take over the counter pain medicine
Treat head pain at home, take acetaminophen (Tylenol). Do not take ibuprofen or aspirin because that could make bruising or bleeding worse.
Thirdly, keep focused
If the victim is conscious, ask simple questions. This is to assess the degree of the victim’s trauma and also keep the victim awake. Continuing to ask questions can alert you to changes in the victim’s mental state if the victim fails to answer a question they could answer before. If the cognitive state changes and worsens, seek medical attention. Good questions include:
- What is today’s date?
- Where are you?
- What happened to you?
- What is your name?
Fourthly, avoid strenuous activity
For days after your concussion, avoid sports and strenuous activity. During this time, avoid stressful situations. Your brain needs to rest and heal. Returning to activity too early predisposes you to increased risk for repeated concussion and long term problems of dementia. Also, do not read, watch TV, text, listen to music, play video games, or perform any other mental task. You should rest both physically and mentally.
Furthermore, don’t drive
Do not operate a vehicle or ride a bicycle until you feel fully healed. Get someone to drive you to and from the doctor’s office or hospital.
Additionally, eat healthy foods
Food can positively and negatively affect the healing of your brain. Avoid alcohol after a concussion. Also avoid fried foods, sugars, caffeine, artificial colors and flavors. Instead, eat the following foods:
- Coconut oil.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Butter, cheese, and eggs.
- Any of your favorite fruits and vegetables
For a severe trauma
If the patient is unconscious or if you are unsure the extent of the damage, call an ambulance. Driving a head trauma patient requires moving them, which should never be done until the head is stabilized. Moving a head trauma patient could lead to death.
Finally, go to the hospital.
If the patient is having severe signs of a concussion after experiencing a blow the head, go the the ER immediately. They will do a CT scan and assess the brain for contusions and swelling. If the victim shows any of these symptoms, take them immediately to the ER:
- Loss of consciousness, even if briefly.
- Periods of amnesia.
- Feeling dazed or confused.
- Severe headache.
- Repeated vomiting.