CDC’s New Child Concussion Guidelines Offer Advice On Diagnosis Procedures And Treatment

Updated guidelines address outdated screening practices and new treatments.

Girl sits on ground holding head in pain after she has fallen off her bicycle.
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Updated guidelines address outdated screening practices and new treatments.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new statement Tuesday outlining updated guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of childhood concussions, Fox News reports. Changing standard diagnosis protocols, the CDC’s new recommendations reportedly advise against routine common methods of diagnosis, like X-rays and blood tests. Instead, parents and health providers should watch for more serious signs of head injury such as vomiting, unconsciousness, and headaches that continue to grow in intensity. The CDC statement also reassures parents that most kids’ symptoms will dissipate after three months.

Concussions (or mild traumatic brain injury) are defined as trauma to the brain caused by a severe bump to the head. Common known signs include dizziness and severe headaches. The new CDC statement’s co-author Matthew Breiding reportedly stated that many parents are misinformed on the signs to look for, saying they often think that “you need to lose consciousness or be ‘knocked out’ in order to have a concussion.”

The new CDC statement is the first broad evidence-based statement regarding childhood concussions to be published and is supported by 25 years of research, says Fox News. While the American Academy of Pediatrics has provided evidence-based recommendations in the past, they have been limited to sports injuries and school return. Now, the CDC is offering more detailed advice regarding all types of head injury causes – from bicycle accidents to injuries at home.

Additionally, Fox News states that the CDC has offered child concussion tracking guidelines in order to improve future studies on the topic. With more than 1 million children developing concussions each year, tracking data has been sparse, and the CDC wants better diagnosis procedures in place so that the U.S. can treat children more efficiently.

Here is a summary of the CDC’s new Pediatric mTBI (mild Traumatic Brain Injury) Guideline offered to health professionals:

  1. Do not routinely image patients to diagnose mTBI.
  2. Use validated, age-appropriate symptom scales to diagnose mTBI.
  3. Assess evidence-based risk factors for prolonged recovery.
  4. Provide patients with instructions on return to activity customized to their symptoms.
  5. Counsel patients to return gradually to non-sports activities after no more than 2-3 days of rest.

The CDC’s report also recommends that parents seek medical care for their children immediately if they display any of these worrisome symptoms of concussion after receiving a blow to the head: any danger signs such as dizziness, irritability, repeated vomiting, or slurred speech; non-stop crying or inability to be consoled; and refusal to nurse or eat food.

Another new recommendation stated is the importance for children to return to regular activity as soon as symptoms are mild or gone, and to limit the number of daytime naps while returning to the child’s normal nap schedule.