What Does Post-Concussive Syndrome Look Like in Children?


What are the signs of post-concussive syndrome in kids and what is the best treatment?


Post-concussive symptoms in infants, children, and adolescents are similar and yet have their own unique presentations.

In infants, it can be difficult to recognize that a brain injury has occurred. The most obvious symptom is loss of consciousness but other signs include crying inconsolably and not being able to be comforted, vomiting, or excessive sleepiness. Refusing to eat, prolonged irritability, or unusual or prolonged periods of quietness or inactivity may also be signs of a concussion or more serious brain injury. Bulging of the anterior fontanelle — or the soft spot of the head — is also an ominous sign. If your child has any of these symptoms he should be checked immediately by a physician.

After the injury, caregivers may notice a temporary loss of the most recently attained developmental skills (for example, if injured at age 6 months, the baby may stop babbling or may no longer be able to sit independently). But the baby should regain these skills and acquire new skills. Caregivers may also notice that the child is more irritable, cries more, has become a fussier eater, and has a change in sleep patterns. If the child cries more in a particular position, then the parent should consider the possibility that vertigo or dizziness has developed from the injury and that position should be avoided for a few weeks. In a more severe brain injury, the child’s head circumference may stop growing for a few weeks and then resume growing. In most cases, the infant will return to normal over the space of several weeks. During this time, the infant should be kept in as normal a routine as possible with more time for naps and sleep.

For young children under age 6 or 7, it is sometimes hard to recognize a brain injury because limited short-term memory and brief attention spans are normal at these ages. With older children and adolescents, these markers are more telling. With older children and teenagers, these markers are more significant. In teens we also look for confusion and word-finding problems.

Aside from memory and attention span issues or changes, recognizing a concussion in children and adolescents may include the following signs and symptoms:

  • Brief (less than 20 minutes) loss of consciousness
  • Confusion or being dazed or stunned, or seeing stars
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Emotional lability (cry or laugh unexpectedly)
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fatigue and the vertigo

These symptoms are best treated initially by rest — both physical and mental. Recovery is faster when the child or adolescent rests often and consistently post-injury. For the first few days after an injury, almost complete rest is important. After the symptoms have disappeared, see what happens when the child walks on even ground at a relatively brisk pace. If no symptoms recur then the child can increase his physical activity as long as he remains symptom free. Parents and teachers should carefully monitor the child’s first few days, weeks, and months after the injury and return to school. If symptoms return or problems in school develop, the child should be taken to a physician and possibly a neuropsychologist.

If any of the symptoms get significantly worse rather than better, if new symptoms appear after a few days, if the child starts vomiting, or is difficult to arouse then he should be taken immediately for an assessment by an emergency physician.


Posted on BrainLine August 18, 2010

Jane Gillett

Dr. Jane Gillett was a neurologist certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in both pediatric and adult neurology. She created and developed the Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Community Outreach Program, Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario. She died in 2011.

Comments (10)

My 19mth old fell and hit her head on the door frame last Sunday afternoon. A couple of hours later, she had a seizure so we brought her to the ER. They checked her out and kept us in overnight to make sure she didn’t have any more seizures, vomiting etc. and we were let go home on Monday morning. I’m not sure if this is normal or not but she still seems quite drowsey and keeps going on and off her food. Can someone please advise

My daughter fell down a flight of stairs when she was three. She went in and out of conciousness on the the way to the hospital, however, because she didn't 'pass out' or was vomiting, a CT scan was not performed. They gave us Tylenol and said to make sure "she stayed home for the next few days and rested". A few years later at 8 years old, she fell off of a jungle gym and slammed her head on the mulch. Once home, she started going "in and out" but this time she threw up. At the ER she had a CT scan, and while the results came back 'normal', she was still throwing up so they kept her overnight. She rested for a week and didn't do any sports for about 4 months. Flash forward a couple of years, she's 11 and just started middle school. Now she tells me that she has headaches every few days, has heard ringing in her ears that goes away in about 30 seconds, and she keeps forgetting where her classes are located and what her locker combination is. She also misplaces her work folders constantly and gets very frustrated at how she feels when she gets headaches at school. I want to believe that I am doing everything I can to help my daughter, and want to think she will 'grow out of' these issues, but deep down inside I am ashamed and fearful that she could have life-long issues because of her childhood injuries. What else can I do to help her?

We’re praying for you and yours.

When I was young a kid accidentally jumped on my head. I had to get 13 stitches in side and another on the outside. I was made to go back to school the following day. I was in 4th grade and my life dramatically change. Is it harder to see symptoms as a child? Im 24 year old now and I'm suffering from most of the symptoms of traumatic brain injury. And I dont know how to seek help. I'm struggling day by day. In and out of work. In and out of just feeling normal but I'm not sure what normal is anymore. Can anyone send me an answer?

When i was 11 i experienced a concussion and at 34 have just learned how to manage it with plenty of extra sleep, no alcohol, low carbohydrate and high fat diet, fish oils, dha, plenty of water, limiting screen time, dont stay up late, recognize when your emotions and focus are off you need rest and food asap. Theres not a lot of help from the medical field but hopefully there will be in the next ten years

Hi Anthony. Homeopathy can help with this. You are right. There is not a lot of support from the medical field.

Im so sorry you are suffering. Please see a neurologist asap, to get follow up care and apply for disability ins if you can.

You need to concentrate on bettering your health. If you need a support system, reach out!

I am researching this because last year my sons girlfriend had temporary custody of her niece and nephew.  After a fall off from some steps, that she was walking him down, and he landed on his head on a hardwood floor she paid attention to any signs or symptoms of concussion.  After he started vomiting she took him to a local hospital and told them they symptoms expecting them to run a ct scan, xrays, or some sort of head scan.  They did not.  They sent him home and told her to give him tylenol and he was fine.  Several days later, my son was watching him.  She had just gotten home from the store and he went down to get milk for the child's bottle.  When he came back upstairs the child was laying on the floor having convulsions.  He immediately picked him up to see what was wrong and called 911.  This was last year.  After the child was admitted to the hospital, my sons girlfriend asked then if this could be a result of their ER not running any scans when she had brought him in several days before.  The next thing the hospital did was bring in a numerologist that specializes in child abuse.  They started accusing my son of abusing the child.  My son had taken care of all of his nieces and nephews since birth as well as many other family friends children.  He has never been aggressive with children.  If anything he was overly cautious. Last year we had thought they dropped the idea.  This last week the local prosecutors office put a warrant out for his arrest for felony child abuse.  We are at such a loss that we don't know where to turn for help.  Please if you could send me anything that might help to Davisnessan2015@comcast.net 

Thank you for showing me the way to solve this problem!!!!!!!!

I am legally blind. I watched the video, and it is wonderful, as a grown Survivor, it is hard enough to understand it all. But parents and teachers and others need this information BIG TIME!

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