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After a Concussion

Girl in bed with woman sitting on bed next to her.
Awaken to check alertness as often as the health care provider suggests.

If you 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.

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

Have someone call 911 or your emergency number if you can't fully wake up or have a seizures or convulsions.

The first 48 hours

Don’t take medicine unless approved by your healthcare provider. Try placing a cold, damp cloth on your 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 your doctor says it's OK. A second head injury before fully recovering from the first one can lead to serious brain injury.

  • Don't do activities that need a lot of concentration or a lot of attention. This will let your brain rest and heal faster.

  • Return to regular physical and mental activity as directed with your doctor's OK.

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.

☐ Have someone wake you every ____ hours for the next ____ hours. He or she should ask you questions to check for alertness.

☐ OK to sleep through the night.

When to call the healthcare provider

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

  • Vomiting. Some vomiting is common, but tell the provider about any vomiting.

  • Clear or bloody drainage from the nose or ear

  • Constant drowsiness or trouble 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

  • Signs of stroke such as paralysis of parts of the body

  • Uncontrolled movements suggesting a seizure

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

Online Medical Reviewer: Anne Fetterman RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Campellone MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2020
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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