1st July, 20204 min read

What should I do if I have a concussion?

Medical reviewer:
Healthily's medical team
Healthily's medical team
Tomas Duffin
Tomas Duffin
Last reviewed: 02/07/2020
Medically reviewed

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Concussion is a temporary injury to the brain caused by trauma to the head and it can affect your awareness and memory.

Concussion most commonly occurs in children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 14, with the 2 most common causes being sports and cycling accidents.

Motor accidents and falls are the more common cause in adults. Competitive team sports like football and rugby also increase your risk.

If you think you have a concussion, you should go to hospital to rule out anything more serious.

What is concussion?

Concussion is the most common type of brain injury -- but the least serious.

It’s a temporary injury caused by trauma to the head that causes the short-term loss of certain functions.

Symptoms of a concussion can last from a few days to a few months or more. Sometimes a concussion needs emergency treatment and can cause longer-term problems.

How can I tell if I have concussion?

Signs of concussion normally show up within a few minutes of the injury occurring, but occasionally they may not appear for a few days or even weeks.

Symptoms of a concussion include:

  • a brief loss of consciousness
  • memory loss
  • disturbed vision (such as ‘seeing stars’)
  • confusion

Mild concussion normally gets better without treatment, but if you have any concerns or if your symptoms persist, you should see a doctor

Blurry vision looking up into trees

Recovering from concussion

Concussion is usually diagnosed in hospital after appropriate evaluation and observation.

Once you’re feeling better you’ll typically be discharged to continue your recovery at home. Most people feel better within a few days or weeks.

If you have a headache it’s okay to take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. But you should avoid taking aspirin as it can occasionally cause bleeding in the brain.

You should also avoid drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs.

In addition, there are a few things you can do once home to help you recover and manage your condition better.

Look out for delayed symptoms

Ask a friend or family member to stay with you for 48 hours days to watch out for any changes in your behaviour, or any difficulty concentrating or understanding.

Sleep and avoid stress

Despite what it may say online there is no evidence that sleeping after concussion causes you to slip into a coma. Get plenty of rest and avoid stress as much as possible.

Stay active

Make a gradual return to being active based on doing what you can without your symptoms returning. Don’t do sports or any strenuous exercise for at least a week and avoid contact sports for a minimum of 3 weeks.

Only work once you’ve recovered

Don’t go back to work or school and don’t drive a car or ride a bike until you’ve fully recovered.

Speak to your doctor if you still have symptoms after 2 weeks or you're unsure about returning to activities such as work or sports.

When concussion symptoms last a few months -- or more -- it is known as post-concussion syndrome.

When to see a doctor about concussion

You should go to hospital as soon as possible if you’ve injured your head and have either been knocked out and woken up, have problems with your memory, a persistent headache or you’ve felt sick ever since the injury.

If you’ve noticed any changes in your behaviour, such as being more irritable, or have been drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs, you should also see a doctor.

A previous operation on your brain or taking blood-thinning medicines (warfarin) for any other conditions are further reasons to see a doctor.

Also call for an ambulance if someone needs to go to hospital but you can't get them there safely.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.