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Critical symptoms of a brain injury parents must know

You're involved in a car accident after picking your kids up from school. Another driver runs a red light. You're watching the road and you hit the brakes, but there's nothing you can do.

The aftermath of the accident is chaotic. You're injured, and you have to watch as emergency response crews help pull your kids from the car. It's a terrible moment, but it gets better. Everyone gets rushed to the hospital, and physical injuries appear limited. It looks like everyone is going to be all right.

The car did its job. You bought a vehicle with high safety ratings. You always told your kids to wear their seat belts. You helped protect them, and it paid off.

One thing you need to remember is that brain injuries may be invisible. Symptoms may show up instantly, but they may be delayed. With younger kids, they may not know how to express or communicate their symptoms.

This isn't to say you need to feel paranoid, but you must know what symptoms to watch out for after a serious wreck. Even as physical injuries heal, you have to stay vigilant. Below are a few things you should look for:

  1. Lightheadedness and dizziness. This may happen when a child stands up quickly, for instance, or it may just remain a constant state.

  2. Headaches that will not go away. Even if they're not severe, the consistency is a red flag.

  3. Mental confusion. You know your kids. Watch for changes in the way they act and process information.

  4. Mood and behavior changes. This is similar to the above. Do the child's actions deviate from the norm? Does a happy child become angry, for instance, or does a normally low-key child start acting out?

  5. Sensory changes. These could include a consistent ringing in the ears or blurred vision. You can sometimes see red flags yourself, such as noticing that a child is having trouble reading, but you may simply need to ask the kids how they're feeling from time to time.

  6. Sleep routine alterations. A child who used to sleep through the night starts waking up every two or three hours. That can raise a red flag. Kids' sleep patterns do change more than adults', but you should still track significant differences.

  7. Vomiting and nausea. This is one of the most obvious signs to parents, and it could indicate a serious injury.

  8. Memory and concentration issues. Parents may not even notice this, but teachers may remark on it when the child isn't doing well in school.

These are not all of the signs of a brain injury, but they give you a very good place to start. Be wary when you start to see multiple symptoms at once. Make sure you understand all of the legal and medical options you have.

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