Getting better from a concussion takes days to weeks or even months. You may be irritable, have trouble concentrating, or be unable to remember things. You may also have headaches, dizziness, or blurry vision. These problems will likely recover slowly. You may want to get help from family or friends for making important decisions.
When You First Go Home
You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a headache. DO NOT use aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), naproxen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
You do not need to stay in bed. Light activity around the home is okay. But avoid exercise, lifting weights, or other heavy activity.
You may want to keep your diet light if you have nausea and vomiting. Drink fluids to stay hydrated.
Have an adult stay with you for the first 12 to 24 hours after you are home from the emergency room.
Going to sleep is okay. For at least the first 12 hours, someone should wake you up every 2 or 3 hours. They can ask a simple question, such as your name, and then look for any other changes in the way you look or act.
Ask your doctor how long you need to do this for.
DO NOT drink alcohol until you have fully recovered. Alcohol may slow down how quickly you recover and increase your chance of another injury. It can also make it harder to make decisions.
As long as symptoms are present, avoid sports activities, operating machines, being overly active, doing physical labor. Ask your doctor when you can return to your activities.
If you participate in sports, a doctor will need to check you before go back to playing.
Make sure friends, co-workers, and family members know about your recent injury.
Let your family, co-workers, and friends know that you may be more tired, withdrawn, easily upset, or confused. Also tell them that you, may have a hard time with tasks that require remembering or concentrating, and may have mild headaches and less tolerance for noise.
Consider asking for more breaks when you return to work.
Talk with your employer about:
Reducing your workload for a while
Not doing activities that may place others in danger
Timing of important projects
Allowing rest times during the day
Having extra time to complete projects
Having others check your work
A doctor should tell you when you can:
Do heavy labor or operate machines
Play contact sports, such as football, hockey, and soccer
Ride a bicycle, motorcycle, or off-road vehicle
Drive a car
Ski, snowboard, skate, skateboard, or do gymnastics or martial arts
Participate in any activity where there is a risk of hitting your head or jolt to the head
When to Call the Doctor
If symptoms do not go away or are not improving after 2 or 3 weeks, talk to your doctor.
Call the doctor if you have:
A stiff neck
Fluid and blood leaking from your nose or ears
A hard time waking up or have become more sleepy
A headache that is getting worse, lasts a long time, or is not relieved by over-the-counter pain relievers
Vomiting more than 3 times
Problems walking or talking
Changes in speech (slurred, difficult to understand, does not make sense)
Problems thinking straight
Seizures (jerking your arms or legs without control)
Changes in behavior or unusual behavior
Giza CC, Kutcher JS, Ashwal S, et al. Summary of evidence-based guideline update: Evaluation and management of concussion in sports: Report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2013;80:2250-2257. PMID: 23508730 Available at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23508730.
Tator CH. Concussions and their consequences: current diagnosis, management and prevention. CMAJ. 2013;185:975-979. PMID: 23877672 Available at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23877672.
Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.