After a Concussion

If you or someone close to you has had a mild concussion (a head injury), watch closely for signs of problems during the first 48 hours after the injury. Follow the doctor’s advice about recovering at home. Use the tips on this handout as a guide.

Call 911 or your emergency number if the person with the concussion will not fully wake up or has seizures or convulsions.

The first 48 hours

Mother checking alertness of sleeping childDon’t take medicine unless approved by your healthcare provider. Try placing a cold, damp cloth on the head to help relieve a headache.

  • Ask the doctor before using any medicines.

  • Don’t drink alcohol or take sedatives or medicines that make you sleepy.

  • Don’t return to sports or any activity that could cause you to hit your head until all symptoms are gone and you have been cleared by your doctor. A second head injury before fully recovering from the first one can lead to serious brain injury.

  • Avoid doing activities that require a lot of concentration or a lot of attention. This will allow your brain to rest and heal more quickly.

  • Return to regular physical and mental activity as directed and approved by your healthcare provider.

Tips about sleeping

For the first day or two, it may be best not to sleep for long periods of time without being checked for alertness. Follow the doctor’s instructions.

☐ Wake every ____ hours for the next ____ hours. Ask questions to check for alertness.

☐ OK to sleep through the night.

Note: A person should not be left alone after a concussion. If no adult can stay with the injured person, let the doctor know.

When to call the doctor

If you notice any of the following, call the doctor or healthcare provider:

  • Vomiting (some vomiting is common, but tell the doctor about any vomiting)

  • Clear or bloody drainage from the nose or ear

  • Constant drowsiness or difficulty in waking up

  • Confusion or memory loss

  • Blurred vision or any vision changes

  • Inability to walk or talk normally

  • Increased weakness or problems with coordination

  • Constant, unrelieved headache that becomes more severe

  • Changes in behavior or personality

  • High-pitched crying in infants


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