The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not show up immediately. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer.
Common symptoms after a concussive traumatic brain injury are headache, loss of memory (amnesia) and confusion. The amnesia usually involves forgetting the event that caused the concussion.
Signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
- Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
- Dizziness or "seeing stars"
- Ringing in the ears
- Slurred speech
- Delayed response to questions
- Appearing dazed
You may have some symptoms of concussions immediately. Others may be delayed for hours or days after injury, such as:
- Concentration and memory complaints
- Irritability and other personality changes
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Sleep disturbances
- Psychological adjustment problems and depression
- Disorders of taste and smell
Symptoms in children
Head trauma is very common in young children. But concussions can be difficult to recognize in infants and toddlers because they can't describe how they feel. Concussion clues may include:
- Appearing dazed
- Listlessness and tiring easily
- Irritability and crankiness
- Loss of balance and unsteady walking
- Crying excessively
- Change in eating or sleeping patterns
- Lack of interest in favorite toys
When to see a doctor
See a doctor within 1 to 2 days if:
- You or your child experiences a head injury, even if emergency care isn't required
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you call your child's doctor for anything more than a light bump on your child's head.
If your child doesn't have signs of a serious head injury, remains alert, moves normally and responds to you, the injury is probably mild and usually doesn't need further testing.
In this case, if your child wants to nap, it's OK to let him or her sleep. If worrisome signs develop later, seek emergency care.
Seek emergency care for an adult or child who experiences a head injury and symptoms such as:
- Repeated vomiting
- A loss of consciousness lasting longer than 30 seconds
- A headache that gets worse over time
- Changes in his or her behavior, such as irritability
- Changes in physical coordination, such as stumbling or clumsiness
- Confusion or disorientation, such as difficulty recognizing people or places
- Slurred speech or other changes in speech
Other symptoms include:
- Vision or eye disturbances, such as pupils that are bigger than normal (dilated pupils) or pupils of unequal sizes
- Lasting or recurrent dizziness
- Obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination
- Symptoms that worsen over time
- Large head bumps or bruises on areas other than the forehead in children, especially in infants under 12 months of age
Never return to play or vigorous activity while signs or symptoms of a concussion are present.
An athlete with a suspected concussion should not return to play until he or she has been medically evaluated by a health care professional trained in evaluating and managing concussions.
Children and adolescents should be evaluated by a health care professional trained in evaluating and managing pediatric concussions.
Adult, child and adolescent athletes with a concussion also should not return to play on the same day as the injury.