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Concussion Symptoms can Linger in Children, Study Finds

Update Date: May 13, 2014 02:59 PM EDT

When people suffer from concussions, they are typically instructed to rest until symptoms have been alleviated. However, more and more evidence have suggested that concussion symptoms can last longer than previously expected. According to a new study, concussion symptoms in children can linger around even after the physical symptoms have disappeared.

"Patients and their families should expect the physical symptoms that they experience after a head injury to get better over the next few weeks, but that emotional symptoms may come on later, even as the physical symptoms subside," said lead researcher Dr. Matthew Eisenberg. "Only by knowing what symptoms can be expected after a concussion can we help reassure patients and families that what they experience is normal, know when to seek additional help, and make sure that children are taking appropriate precautions in regard to school and sports to achieve a full recovery,"

Eisenberg and his team interviewed 235 children and young adults between the ages of 11 and 22. The participants had gone to the emergency medicine division at Boston Children's Hospital in Massachusetts. After the hospital visit, the researchers monitored the participants' health for three months or up until the end of the symptoms. The most common physical symptoms recorded were headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Mental symptoms included difficulty concentrating and problems with thinking.

The researchers found that within two weeks, the majority of the participants had recovered from their concussion. A quarter of them still suffered from a headache that lasted one month after the injury. One-fifth of the sample reported experiencing fatigue and another one-fifth reported difficulties thinking one month after the injury. Other mental symptoms, such as frustration and irritability, developed later on. The researchers concluded that symptoms of concussions appear to linger around a few weeks longer than people expected.

"It takes longer than people think to fully recover from a concussion. My experience is that kids who still have symptoms two weeks after a concussion are going to have a very hard time, and it's going to be a struggle to get them to the point where they have no symptoms," Dr. John Kuluz, director of traumatic brain injury and neurorehabilitation at Miami Children's Hospital, said reported by WebMD.

The researchers recommended that children take it easy after suffering from a concussion. Children should not be rushed back into sports activities or even school-work until symptoms have cleared. Children should also slowly ease back into their normal routine with supervision. If symptoms do not go away with time, parents should seek medical care. Dr. Kuluz personally recommends treating concussion patients with oral medications or physical therapy if needed.

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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