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General Medical Questions
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Question : Do you have any tips for what an adult should not do after a concussion?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D., is professor of medicine and editor-in-chief of Harvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Komaroff also is senior physician and was formerly director of the Division of General Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. Komaroff has served on various advisory committees to the federal government, and is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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April 07, 2014
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The answer depends on how serious the concussion was.

First, some basics. A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by trauma to the head. The brain sits inside the skull. Whereas the skull is hard, the brain is soft. And it moves around a little inside the skull. A head injury can cause the soft brain to forcefully bang against the hard skull. This can cause a brain injury called a concussion. 

The symptoms can range from mild to severe:

  • Feeling sleepy or irritable
  • Having nausea or actually vomiting
  • Feeling dizzy or unsteady on your feet
  • A headache
  • Confusion, loss of memory (of the injury and other recent events) and even a loss of consciousness

In people with milder concussion symptoms, the symptoms can go away completely in a few hours. In other people — typically, those with more severe symptoms at the beginning — the symptoms can last longer.

Sometimes, the injury that causes a concussion can also cause bleeding into the brain. One type of bleeding is called a subdural hematoma. This happens when a pool of blood just under the skull slowly grows larger. At first, the subdural hematoma causes no symptoms. But it can eventually cause many of the same symptoms as the concussion. So if you seem to have recovered from concussion symptoms, but then symptoms come back, check with your doctor.

Immediately following a concussion, doctors advise rest. Don’t push yourself physically or mentally until you get the OK from your doctor. Doctors often also advise avoiding alcohol for several days because you may become intoxicated more easily.

The most important thing to do after suffering a concussion is to avoid situations that could cause another head injury. Here’s why: After a concussion, the brain can be more easily injured from another head injury.

So avoid activities (such as contact sports, bicycle riding) that could cause brain injury. And, of course, after your doctor clears you to take part in these activities, be sure to wear a helmet.

Finally, here’s some advice that applies to everyone — concussion or not: Always wear a seatbelt in the car.

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