How to treat a concussion

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Learn how to treat a concussion at home and how to pay for the costs if you need to visit the hospital.

One of the most common injuries, concussions, or traumatic brain injuries (TBI), happen whenever there is a direct blow to the head, or when the head hits something else. Auto accidents and sports injuries are the most common causes of concussions but even a simple fall can result in a concussion. In 2014 alone there were more than 2.5 million concussion injuries treated in U.S. hospitals.¹

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What is a concussion?

Concussions are a specific type of brain injury that causes the brain to move quickly forward and back inside the skull. If you have ever slid a piece of paper out from under something and watched the item on top of the paper slide forward forcefully and then slide back forcefully before settling in the same position that’s similar to what happens to your brain when you get a concussion. The brain bounces forward against the skull, then backward hitting the skull again, before settling back into place. 

Concussions cause bruise-like injuries on the delicate brain. Usually, these lesions heal without permanent damage, but there can be lingering side effects from a concussion that take months to heal. Sometimes there is permanent damage if the injury is severe enough. Concussion symptoms and treatment vary depending on the impact on the brain and the severity of the concussion. 

How accident insurance can help pay for concussion treatment

If you sustain a concussion you could be in the hospital for a week or longer, and you could have a long recovery time ahead of you. Your medical insurance may pay for the medical treatments that you need but what about paying for the cost of the ambulance? Or paying your deductible for your insurance? How will you pay for rent or your mortgage if you can’t work for a week or more? What about utility bills, car payments, and credit card payments? There are a lot of expenses that can pile up fast when you’re sick and not working. Accident insurance can help fill in those gaps. 

Accident insurance will pay you a lump sum of money if you have an accident that causes a concussion, or if your child has an accident that leads to a concussion and is in the hospital. The money that you receive from accident insurance can be used to pay for rehabilitation or extra therapies, medications, or treatments that insurance doesn’t cover, your deductible for your medical insurance, or any other costs that you are struggling with because of your injury. 

Common causes of concussions

Anyone can get a concussion, but some groups of people have a higher risk of having a concussion or a TBI. Seniors over the age of 60 are considered a high-risk category for concussion. So are athletes who play contact sports

Falls account for almost half of all TBIs that were treated in hospitals.² Falls can happen anywhere, and concussions are often the result of a simple fall. The brain is fairly fragile, so falling on the ground or falling against something hard can cause a serious injury to the brain. 

Symptoms of a concussion

The symptoms of a concussion are subtle and easy to miss. Changes in mood, behavior, and demeanor can often be written off as a bad day when in reality they are the result of damage to a particular part of the brain. Many people who have concussions don’t even notice the symptoms. They might just feel off but not be able to put into words what feels wrong or out of place. A person can also display some physical symptoms directly after a head injury but not show other symptoms until much later. Symptoms of a concussion that often occur within a couple of hours of the injury include:

  • Temporary loss of consciousness or being knocked out

  • Inability to form words or having slurred speech

  • Inability to respond to questions

  • Dazed or glassy look in the eyes

  • Short-term memory loss

  • Persistent headache or severe headache

  • Tinnitus or a ringing sound in the ears

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Extreme sleepiness or inability to stay awake

  • Double or blurry vision

In the hours and days after the concussion you may develop these symptoms:

  • Confusion or feeling lost or out of sorts

  • Not being able to remember the incident that caused the concussion

  • Dizziness or "seeing stars"

  • Inability to focus or concentrate

  • Irritability and other personality changes

  • Sensitivity to light and noise

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Psychological adjustment problems and depression

  • Disorders of taste and smell

Recognizing concussions in children 

It can be difficult to recognize when a child has had a concussion after a bump on the head because children often can’t express when they are feeling off or different after a head injury. If your child has a fall and hits their head or has an accident while playing sports and could have a head injury keep a close eye on them and watch for any of these symptoms:

  • Glassy eyed look 

  • Having no energy or being extremely tired

  • Being extremely irritable 

  • Having trouble with balance or walking in an unsteady way

  • Crying more frequently or more intensely

  • Having no appetite or interest in meals 

  • Vomiting

  • Seizures

If your child’s symptoms get worse, or if you are concerned because the symptoms seem severe then don’t wait to take your child to a doctor. Child concussion treatment is very similar to concussion treatment for adults. 

Home treatment for a concussion

If your concussion isn’t serious you can treat it at home. Concussion treatment at home is an option for many people. The best home treatment for a concussion includes:

1. Rest

Lots of rest is essential to let your brain heal. Mild concussion treatment is mostly just resting and sleeping as much as possible. You should take off of work and spend your time sleeping or at least resting. And resting doesn’t mean reading the internet or watching TV. Some light reading is ok if the words don’t appear jumbled up but the rapid movement of characters on screen or ads online combined with bright colors and sharp sounds will be overwhelming for a brain that is trying to heal. Try listening to audiobooks or some other type of gentle entertainment if you get bored. 

You should also plan on skipping any strenuous activities. No workouts, no bike rides, no running of any kind. Gentle walking is good for you if you feel up to it but make sure that you take frequent breaks to sit down and rest if you decide to go for a walk. Also make sure that you are wearing sturdy footwear and appropriate clothing so that you don’t fall and re-injure your brain. 

2. Avoid triggers

Lights, sounds, print on a page, even certain smells can be triggers for concussion symptoms. As the brain heals itself you might find that odd things make your symptoms worse. That’s part of the healing process. You may need to wear sunglasses if bright lights can trigger headaches or other symptoms. 

3. Avoid painkillers

If you have a headache or if you were in an accident and have body aches you should avoid taking-over-the-counter painkillers for a few days after your injury. Painkillers can mask symptoms that will tell you if something is really wrong and they can increase the chance of bleeding internally by thinning the blood. If you are really hurting, go to the doctor for a proper examination. 

4. Avoid anything strenuous

When you are trying to recover from a concussion you shouldn’t be doing anything strenuous. No grocery shopping, definitely no driving, no household chores or working from home. It can be difficult to force yourself to do nothing but that’s exactly what you need to do so that your brain can heal. 

When to get medical help for a concussion

Most of the time concussion symptoms aren’t that severe and will go away with lots of rest and home treatment. However, some injuries are more severe than others. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a family member or loved one after a head injury go to the emergency room. 

  • One pupil larger than the other

  • Inability to wake up or stay awake

  • A splitting or severe headache that does not go away

  • Extremely slurred speech, inability to speak or form words, weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination

  • Repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions, uncontrollable shaking or twitching

  • Unusual irritability, increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation

  • Loss of consciousness, even for a few minutes 

Post-concussion syndrome 

Concussions are a unique type of injury because the effects of the injury can linger for months, or even up to a year in some cases. Post-concussion syndrome occurs when the brain takes a long time to heal after a concussion. The wiring of the brain can become damaged by the concussion which means that recovery takes longer than recovering from other types of injuries. In most people, post-concussion syndrome lasts anywhere from 10 days to three months, although it can last up to a year. While you are trying to manage Post Concussion Syndrome it’s very important that you take steps to avoid another concussion. Injuring your brain again while you are healing could cause permanent damage. The symptoms of post-concussion syndrome are similar to concussion symptoms but these symptoms linger and can be more intense than concussion symptoms. The symptoms of post-concussion syndrome include:

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Loss of concentration and memory

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Blurry vision

  • Noise and light sensitivity

  • Rarely, decreases in taste and smell

Post-concussion syndrome treatment

Treatment for post-concussion syndrome depends on the severity of your injury and your symptoms. Your doctor will work with you to develop a three-pronged approach to healing that includes:

Physical rehabilitation

Exercise can do wonders for the body. Certain types of aerobic activity performed for a set amount of time can help the brain heal itself and promote the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that will help manage some of the emotional symptoms that are associated with post-concussion syndrome like depression and irritability. 

Nutritional support

Working with a nutritionist is a great way to make sure that you are eating foods that will support your healing. The vitamins and minerals in fresh fruits and vegetables as well as the amino acids found in meats and proteins will help the brain rebuild itself while keeping your body strong. You may also find that supplements can help if you need a nutritional boost. The most often recommended supplements for someone with post-concussion syndrome are:

  • B12 – This can help restore energy and vitality while also building up your immune system and helping to alleviate irritability and negative moods. 

  • Curcumin – This natural element is the active ingredient in turmeric. Curcumin has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate pain and inflammation throughout the body. 

  • Magnesium – This is important for heart and muscle health, and it’s recommended to help with brain healing after a concussion or a TBI.

  • Melatonin – This  hormone is made by your body to regulate your circadian rhythm and helps you stay on a regular sleep cycle. Taking this supplement will help you get on a regular sleep schedule and sleep better throughout the night if you’re having sleep disorders because of your concussion or TBI. 

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  1., 2019

  2., 2019

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.(exp.07/22)