Did you know March was Brain Injury Awareness Month? We wanted to post this blog last month, but we forgot – brain injury, perhaps?
All kidding aside, brain injuries are no joke. Often not detected or diagnosed for months or even years, these injuries can devastate lives. New studies reported by Reuters last month reveal that young children who are hospitalized with head injuries may be at higher than average risk for developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in life. As for adults, head injuries are responsible for more than 80,000 emergency room visits each year among people over 65. Plus, Science Daily reports that patients with head trauma may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Participation in high school football has decreased significantly in recent years due to concern about head injuries, but a staggering number of head injuries still occur among athletes and folks in high-risk jobs.
Traumatic brain injuries are known as the silent injuries for good reason. Know how to prevent and identify them, so you can help yourself and your loved ones.
- Wear a helmet…always!
- Wear a seat belt…always!
- Avoid falls by removing tripping hazards, installing adequate lighting, and installing handrails and non-slip pads where needed.
- Never drive or operate heavy equipment while vision or mental abilities are impaired. This includes many prescription drugs.
- Protect children by careful supervision (especially near water), using safety gates, locking windows, and avoiding playgrounds containing non-shock-absorbent material.
Know the Signs:
(There are many signs, so check with a doctor if you are concerned!)
- Changes in balance or walking: Tripping, catching balance on furniture, holding or leaning onto walls, or falling down.
- Weakness, dizziness, or changes in strength: Difficulty climbing stairs, getting out of a chair, lifting objects, or performing fine-motor skills; weakness in one arm or leg.
- Decreased coordination.
- Problems with swallowing, coughing, or choking.
- Changes in thinking, memory or attention, including forgetfulness, organization problems, and focusing issues.
- Difficulty performing ordinary activities, such as getting dressed or brushing teeth.
Seek Medical Help:
- See a specialist if possible: Any medical treatment is better than no treatment, but according to a March 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania, patients who sustain severe head injuries tend to have better outcomes if they are taken to a designated trauma center. Many patients instead are treated at hospitals without these specialized care capabilities.
- Get tested: In February 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved a first-ever blood test to detect the telltale signs of serious brain injury. The test results are available in only three or four hours, and doctors are hopeful this new testing will make diagnosis simpler and more accurate. Remember to ask your doctor if the test is available for you.
- Persist: The symptoms of traumatic brain injury are often subtle, so seek a second or third opinion if you think you or a loved one is affected.
Traumatic brain injuries, if left untreated, can cause drastic lifestyle changes. Be cautious, be aware, and, as always, be your own health advocate!