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Following outdated concussion advice? Parents are making kids’ symptoms worse, study warns

Concussions can happen to kids at anytime, whether they're playing at home, walking to school or taking part in sports. It's an epidemic. But as Allison Vuchnich explains, new, groundbreaking Canadian research has led to an accurate tool to predict recovery time in kids.

New research is warning parents that following outdated concussion advice could make their kids’ symptoms worse post-head injury.

A U.S. survey out of the University of California in Los Angeles tasked parents with talking about how they’d care for their little ones if their concussion symptoms lasted for more than a week.

Turns out, 77 per cent of nearly 570 parents said they’d wake their kids up throughout the night to check on them – a major no-no when experts now say that uninterrupted rest is crucial in helping the brain heal.

“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,” Dr. Christopher Giza, a pediatric neurology and director at UCLA’s BrainSPORT program, said.

He cautioned that this was only one in a handful of examples of how parents were worsening a situation because of outdated advice.

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READ MORE: Canadian docs release 1st national guidelines on concussion in kids

“This survey really illustrates just how far the pendulum has swung in terms of caring for children with concussions. In the past, there was often a tendency to downplay the significance of concussions. Now some parents go too far the other direction and, despite their best intentions, they can inadvertently complicate their child’s recovery,” he explained.

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Doctors rely on cues from memory, mood and energy level to help them decide if a child is on the mend. If they’re woken up every few hours, that could tamper with how your child is doing in the doctor’s office.

Another 84 per cent of parents said they were pulling their kids from all physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle post-concussion isn’t good either. While kids shouldn’t return to contact sports right away, you should give them the green light to walk the dog, go on an easy hiking trail or stretching.

“Being active can help children improve their mood, take their mind off their symptoms and restore a sense of normalcy,” Giza said.

Finally, parents were pulling the plug on socializing out of fear that the interaction would stress their kids out. Screen time was also worrisome for parents.

READ MORE: Panel finds helmets, mouth guards don’t prevent concussions

Sixty-four per cent of parents took away their kids’ electronic devices, including their smart phones if their symptoms weren’t letting up after a week. The concern is depression and anxiety could set in if kids are pulled away from their regular routines.

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“These kids quickly start to worry about keeping up in their classes, losing social status and, if they are athletes, whether they will lose their place on the team. It’s important to ease them back into their social circles quickly, and that might mean being a little more permissive when it comes to social media and screen time,” Giza said.

New study leads to breakthrough in concussion research
New study leads to breakthrough in concussion research

WATCH ABOVE: A major new study has lead researchers to a new test that can accurately detect how long a child’s recovery from a concussion will take. Heather Yourex-West reports.

Every child is different, but in most cases, concussion symptoms should subside within two to three weeks. If not, you should bring your child back to see a specialist.

Last year, Canadian doctors launched the country’s first concussion guidelines that were handed out to health care workers, parents and schools.

“These are the first comprehensive pediatric guidelines that we’re aware of — they reflect the very best available evidence today,” project lead Dr. Roger Zemek told Global News at the time.

READ MORE: Even without concussion, head injuries still affect learning, memory, study warns

It was once a band aid, one-size-fits-all solution: child or adult, if you lost consciousness from a concussion, for example, you were resting for a month. But the advice was vague and didn’t factor in school or non-athletic activities.

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And the treatment and recovery will vary based on the child.

Read through the guidelines here. And download some of the tools here.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca