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Parents may be following outdated advice on concussion care

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Most parents are likely to follow outdated advice when caring for a child with a concussion, according to a US survey.

UCLA questioned 569 parents on how they would care for a child whose concussion symptoms lasted for more than a week. More than three out of four (77%) said they would probably wake their child up throughout the night to check on them.

But doing so could complicate the child´s recovery, said paediatric neurologist Dr Christopher Giza, director of the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program.

“Many parents believed they might overlook swelling of the brain if they allowed their child to go to sleep with a concussion,” Dr Giza explained. “We certainly want a doctor to evaluate the child immediately after injury, but if you´re still waking a child up throughout the night more than a week later, you´re doing more harm than good.”

The specialist noted that doctors evaluate things like mood, memory and energy level to gauge how well a child is recovering from a concussion. All of those factors will be impacted if a child is awakened every few hours.

“Once a professional has diagnosed your child and determined that there is no further risk, let them sleep,” he said. “In fact, we encourage sleep very early on because that will help the brain heal faster.”

The survey also revealed that 84% of parents were likely to make their children refrain from any physical activity. Dr Giza pointed out that although children should avoid activities that put them at risk for further injury, they should not be sedentary, especially a week after injury.

“We certainly don´t want them to go back to playing contact sports right away, but gentle aerobic exercise like walking the dog, easy hiking or riding a stationary bicycle is actually good for them,” he said. “Being active can help children improve their mood, take their mind off their symptoms and restore a sense of normalcy.”

Dr Giza also emphasised the benefits of letting children continue to socialise with their friends, including via social media.

“The idea is to give them that initial rest and protect them from contact risk, but then start easing them back into intellectual, physical and social activity,” he concluded. “Those things are all important in the healing process and shouldn´t be overlooked.”