Concussion Signs and Symptoms in Children and Teens

doctor holding up fingers in front of injured young girl holding ice pack on her head
Steve Debenport / Getty Images

Concussions are a common injury for active children and teens. A concussion is a form of brain injury that can be caused by a blow to the head, or a serious shaking that has rattled the brain inside the skull. 

If your child or teen has received a hard blow to the head or is demonstrating any of these symptoms, get them checked out by a doctor right away. While many children and teens with concussions do heal up and return to normal activity, it is especially important to receive a proper evaluation and follow treatment orders from medical professionals for the best - and shortest- recovery outcome.

Because concussions are a type of brain injury, not properly treating a concussion in youth does have serious long-term negative potential possibilities.

If the doctor finds that your child does indeed have a concussion, it is important that you follow through with the doctor's plan for your child to recover. You will want to work with your child's school and extracurricular activities to make sure your child can take the time needed to recover. You may also want to return to this list of symptoms throughout the recovery time to see if your child is experiencing a return or increase of concussion symptoms.

Concussion Signs and Symptoms in Youth

  • Dizziness: Everything from seeing stars to feeling like they have been spun around several times.
  • Confusion: Maybe they can't remember what happened before or after the event that caused the concussion. Perhaps your child doesn't understand the questions you are asking them as well as they usually do.
  • Headache: The brain injury may actually be felt as pain in the head. This is an especially common symptom throughout the recovery period.
  • Slurred Speech: This symptom will be present depending on which part of the brain was injured. If any of the parts related to speech was injured, then speech will be slow or slurred. 
  • Moodiness: A great deal of emotional regulation happens in different parts of the brain. This symptom may show up in your child as being increasingly irritable, sad, depressed, or just plain moodiness.
  • Fatigue or Inability to Sleep: Sleep regulation is also largely controlled in the brain. Combine that with an increased need for rest to recover from almost any injury, and your child may be very tired all the time, or unable to sleep.
  • Loss of Balance: This may be increased clumsiness, dizziness, or just an off-kilter feeling.
  • Nausea: That sick-to-the-stomach feeling is also a common nausea symptom. It can range in severity from feeling a little nauseated to actual vomiting.
  • Light or Noise Sensitivity: Your child may want to avoid bright or even normally lighting. Loud noises and a lot of background noise can also be irritating in some cases of concussion. With this symptom, your child will want to find ways to avoid this type of stimulation, as it is a warning sign that for this particular concussion, the brain can only process so much sound or light information right now.

Fortunately, these symptoms should go away as your child recovers from their concussion. 

Taking the time to heal up right and recover from a concussion ensures that your child will have the best possible outcome for their mind and body.  

Tips for a Concussion Evaluation

  • Don't delay. Go for an evaluation as soon as you are aware of symptoms, or have concerns about concussion. The earlier an evaluation is made, the earlier a proper treatment protocol can be put into place. Err on the side of caution and take a child or teen to be evaluated if you have any concerns about concussion
  • Gather information. Try to get as many details as possible about the incident during which your child received a blow to the head. The exact location of where the head was hit, how many times, how fast, what exact time of day, whether or not your child lost consciousness, and any strange behavior immediately after the blow to the head are some of the details that a medical provider will want to know.
  • Remember to stay calm yourself. Your child may experience some strange behavior or concussion symptoms in the hours immediately after receiving a blow to the head. While this may be upsetting for you to see, your child or teen will need you to be calm to get a proper evaluation and treatment.
  • Don't panic. Keep in mind the first few hours after receiving a blow to the head may not reliably indicate how severe or longstanding a concussion will be. While it is important to get an evaluation early, sometimes children and teens will have confusion, loss of balance, or other symptoms only in the first few hours after the blow to the head, and then have little to no symptoms after that time. 

Because the brain is the main body organ used for learning, be sure to keep in touch with your child's school about the progress of your child's concussion recovery.

Concussion recovery often takes much longer in children and teens. Taking the right steps is critical for their brain to be in the best possible shape for the rest of their life.

A Word From Verywell

While it is extremely important to follow medical protocol during concussion recovery, remember that most youth who receive concussions and follow their given protocols have positive outcomes. Medical professionals will often be very firm in giving advice and orders when it comes to youth concussions. You will also notice that the handouts provided from your doctor and online articles repeat warnings about the importance of following protocols to heal a concussion.

Rest assured that following the protocol will lead to the best and most positive outcome. By making yourself aware of concussion symptoms, what your child should and shouldn't do with a concussion, and how to monitor the concussion process, you are taking the steps necessary to support your child's healing.

Was this page helpful?