Has one of your family members recently suffered a fall or knock to the head? At first, they may adopt a nonchalant attitude towards the incident or even attempt to make light of it.
Keep in mind, however, that concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) claim thousands of lives each year. In fact, there were approximately 61,000 TBI-related deaths in 2019 alone.
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It’s important that you carefully monitor your loved one’s symptoms in the coming days and weeks. While some symptoms may appear right away, delayed or persistent post-concussive symptoms may develop over time.
Detecting signs of a concussion or TBI as soon as possible can help your family member get the treatment they need, prevent further damage, and make a full recovery. Whether a family member has told you about a recent fall or whether you have witnessed the event itself, be sure to keep an eye out for these 10 signs!
A headache is perhaps the most common symptom that one might experience after a concussion. Headaches may occur as infrequently as a few times per month or as often as multiple times per day.
Of course, this is a symptom that is felt and not seen, so you won’t know whether a loved one is struggling with painful headaches unless they tell you. While headaches are common and may occur for a variety of reasons, don’t ignore this warning sign—especially if it occurs after a head knock.
2. Dazed Appearance
Immediately after an incident, those who suffer a concussion may appear stunned or confused. However, this is a symptom that might also reveal itself in the days or weeks following the injury.
If something seems unusual about your loved one’s appearance, whether it’s a more relaxed posture or a lack of facial expression, don’t ignore it. Help your family member get medical treatment as soon as possible. More than 25% of concussion sufferers don’t get assessed by a medical professional.
Following a brain injury, simple tasks may leave your loved one feeling overly tired or worn out. Of course, this is the brain’s natural response when it requires rest.
If your loved one feels exhausted after simple day-to-day activities or appears disinterested in activities that they typically enjoy, the best thing you can do for them is to help arrange a doctor’s visit and advise them to rest in the meantime.
During a traumatic brain injury, damage to the motor cortex, cerebellum, basal ganglia, or brain stem can affect your loved one’s ability to speak.
Known as dysarthria, this condition might leave your family member feeling frustrated and helpless—unable to physically articulate a thought or idea even though they know exactly what they wish to express.
This condition can manifest in a few different ways. Your loved one may slur their words, mumble, exhibit excessive breathiness, or speak at a low volume.
After a blow to the head, your loved one may forget details that they would typically be able to recall—a condition also known as amnesia. Naturally, forgetfulness is a symptom that may cause concern; but keep in mind that, in roughly 9 in every 10 concussions, symptoms disappear within 7 to 10 days.
Forgotten details can range from common knowledge to more obscure facts. Your loved one may even repeat the same question, quickly forgetting that you have already given them an answer.
Of course, this is a symptom that your loved one may not be able to identify on their own, so it’s important that you keep a keen ear out for them. Flag any forgotten details or repeated questions, and encourage your family member to seek medical care.
6. Delayed Responses
Brain trauma can affect one’s ability to process information and respond to commands at a normal rate. As you converse with your loved one, pay attention to any delays in responses.
You might observe a period of extended silence between the time you ask them a question and the time at which they respond. You might also ask them to take some sort of action—whether it’s performing a task or looking in a certain direction—and notice that is some level of hesitation before they carry it out.
7. Sensitivity to Light
With a head knock, one’s sight may be affected by an injury to the thalamus – a structure in the brain that is responsible for filtering light. Sensitivity to light, more specifically, is a symptom that your loved one might complain about in the days following their incident.
Strong sunlight, indoor lighting, and device screens may cause them to experience painful headaches or even bring about a wave of nausea. Even after your loved one has consulted a doctor and been diagnosed with a concussion or TBI, advise them to avoid staring at their device screens for the time being.
8. Sensitivity to Noise
Similarly, the brain filters auditory input. After a brain injury, your loved one might struggle to be present in grocery stores, shopping malls, and other environments without experiencing ear pain or headaches.
Those who have endured concussions might also experience tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing of the ears that either occurs consistently or comes and goes intermittently. Particularly after a head knock, heightened sensitivity to sound is a telltale sign that your family member has experienced brain trauma of some kind.
9. Blurred Vision
Blurred vision is another symptom that can affect one’s eyes after a concussion or brain injury. As a result of their blurred vision, your loved one may also experience dizziness or a sense of imbalance.
While your family member recovers from their injury, make sure they don’t perform activities—such as driving or biking—that might risk their own safety or that of others.
10. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea is one of the more common post-concussion symptoms, and even the mildest brain injuries can result in acute nausea.
If you spot your loved one vomiting, feeling ill, or citing a loss of appetite—all of which might be related to a recent head injury—it’s wise to help them schedule a doctor’s visit as soon as possible.