What to Do After a Concussion

A concussion is the most common type of head injury. This can result from several accidents, including sports injuries and car crashes. The good thing is that concussions are only temporary and will not leave lasting damage unless it is not treated promptly. Learn what you can do after a concussion to avoid complications. 

What to Do After a Concussion

1. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is not just for our bodies, but our brains, too. Sleep is especially important if you have suffered from concussions because you tend to feel more tired after doing simple, basic tasks. If you have suffered from a concussion, allow yourself a few short naps 30-60 minutes long. Be careful not to nap too much, or your sleep cycle at night might be affected. Minimize exposure to gadgets or the TV so you can fall asleep more quickly.

2. Rest Your Brain

This is an important example of what to do after a concussion. Don't try to think too hard, read too much, or study for too long right after getting out of a concussion. This is not only difficult to do, but might be frustrating and just add to your stress levels. If you simply must do some work, make sure to schedule it so you have frequent, evenly-spaced breaks.

3. Rest Your Body

As tempting as it might be to return to sports and be active, doing so will cause your heart rate to increase to an unhealthy level, making your symptoms worse and prolonging your recovery. Wait for your doctor to give you the go signal before you try anything.

4. Know What to Avoid

Concussion patients need to limit their activity to keep their stress levels down and avoid making their brains too tired.

  • Avoid driving for at least 24 hours after the injury. Your reaction time will be slower, which can be dangerous on the road and will double your risks of encountering yet another accident.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages until you are well enough.
  • Do not take aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain. These will increase your risk of bleeding internally.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Help

The symptoms for a more serious brain injury than just a concussion may be delayed a few hours or even days after the accident takes place. Therefore, an important part of what to do after a concussion is to monitor yourself and check if your symptoms are suggestive of a more serious injury. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of balance
  • Sudden deafness
  • Eyesight problems
  • Persistent headaches
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Weakness in both arms
  • Bleeding from either ear
  • Trouble staying fully conscious
  • Mental confusion and forgetfulness
  • Difficulty speaking and understanding others
  • Secretion from the ears and nose
  • Drowsiness that lasts more than an hour

When to Return to Work or School

Consult your doctor to see whether you are really fit to go back to your regular routines. Common signs of improvement include loss of symptoms, recovery of all memory and concentration skills, and the ability to do physical activity without feeling too exhausted afterwards. Still, once you are given the go signal, don't try to tire yourself out too much by going all at once. Ease back into it slowly so you can adjust better.

What About Going Back to Sports?

National sporting federations and organizations advocate a step-wise approach, in which the patient will need to go through all the stages before getting the clearance to go back to full-time training and practice. Once the patient declares he is free of symptoms, he can resume a low level of activity; after a few days without recurring symptoms, he can step up the intensity a bit more, and so on until he is eventually able to go back to playing full-time.

Another conference in 2013 suggested the following steps for what to do after a concussion for athletes:

  1. Rest totally for at least 24 hours to let the symptoms pass.
  2. Avoid all activity that has anything to do with the head.
  3. No contact training–for example, football passing drills.

If you have no lingering symptoms, it should be fairly easy to go back to playing after just a week. However, if your symptoms start acting up again, just step your exercises down a notch, monitor again for more symptoms and then try the next level again after the coast is clear.

How to Prevent Concussion After Recovery

To keep yourself from regressing, another part of what to do after a concussion is to make sure that it doesn't happen again. This can be as easy as following safety precautions and rules. For instance:

  • Wear your seat belt in the car.
  • Follow rules when you play: no head butting.
  • Wear a proper helmet whether you're riding a bike, scooter, skis, or any other transportation.
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