Parents with school-aged children typically have lots of questions about their kids’ health. Two of the most common concerns include concussions and vaccinations. Parents worry about their children playing sports because of the risk of head injury, and they wonder about the importance of immunizing their children before sending them to school. Fortunately, renowned pediatric surgeon Dr. Saad Saad has the answers to these questions.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that results from a blow or bump to the head. It can also happen when a strong impact causes the head to jolt back and forth, which may lead to the bouncing or twisting of the brain. Concussions aren’t life-threatening, but they are serious, especially if they go untreated.
The CDC recently released their first set of guidelines for treatment of children with concussions. Because it’s such a common issue for children, these guidelines will hopefully help doctors provide the best possible treatment and ensure good outcomes.
Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
Signs of a concussion usually appear shortly after the injury occurs. Sometimes, though, the child may feel no symptoms for several hours or days. If your child experienced a blow to the head, you should stay alert for signs of a concussion for several days and take your child to the doctor if you suspect that something’s wrong.
Here are the most common signs of a concussion:
- Headache or pressure in the head
- Loss of consciousness
- Confusion or loss of memory
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea and vomiting
- One pupil bigger than the other
- Slurred speech, numbness, or weakness
- Strange behavior, agitation, or restlessness
According to Dr. Saad Saad, even a mild concussion can cause serious problems in the brain. Sometimes, a child experiences no specific signs or symptoms after a concussion. They may say they “don’t feel right,” which parents should take seriously as a sign of a concussion or another brain injury.
The concussion recovery timeline will vary depending on the severity of the injury. In most cases, the child should get plenty of rest and limit physical activities for at least a few weeks after the concussion. The symptoms should go away after a couple weeks, but Dr. Saad Saad warns that symptoms can persist for longer in more severe cases.
After a few weeks, the child should start to return to their normal routine. If no symptoms occur during an activity, they can safely continue participating in that activity. If their symptoms return or worsen, they should not engage in that activity yet.
Kids and teens who play sports should be very careful when returning to practice. They should only start playing again when their doctor approves, and their parents should communicate with the coach to make sure their child is safe.
A small percentage of children with concussions experience post-concussive syndrome. This is more common after multiple concussions, and it can make it difficult to return to regular activities. Children and teens with long-lasting symptoms may feel frustrated when trying to return to school or to their hobbies, so support from family, the school district, and healthcare professionals is essential.
Here is a schedule for how children should return to physical activity after a concussion:
- Light activity: Light to moderate activity like short walks or stationary biking is allowed with the doctor’s approval.
- Light aerobic activity: Exercise can increase slightly but should still be light and safe. Appropriate exercises include walking, light jogging, or using an exercise bike.
- Moderate activity: Activities that increase the heart rate and use head and body movements are allowed. This includes brief running, biking, and moderate weightlifting.
- Heavy, non-contact activity: Non-contact physical activity includes sprinting, high-intensity stationary biking, and non-contact sports drills.
- Practice and full contact: Children and teens who play sports can return to full-contact practice in a controlled environment.
- Competition: The athlete can return to their normal competition.
Dr. Saad Saad recommends that children wear helmets during physical activity to prevent brain injuries. Helmets should be properly-fitted for the child’s size, and they should be worn safely and correctly by latching the buckle under the chin.
Vaccines have been a major topic of discussion in recent years. Dr. Saad Saad understands that parents want the best for their children, and he strongly advises that children be vaccinated to stay healthy.
Dr. Saad Saad supports the CDC’s Immunization Schedule and agrees with the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics that advising parents to skip or delay vaccines is dangerous. He also supports the belief of American Academy of Family Physicians that immunization is essential for preventing the spread of diseases.
Dr. Saad Saad believes that educating parents about the history of vaccines is the best way to clear up confusion and emphasize how important immunizations are. The first vaccine ever developed was for smallpox. Before the vaccine, hundreds of millions of people died from the disease. The vaccine was introduced in the late 1800s, and smallpox was eradicated by the 1980s. Mumps and polio, two other diseases that used to be devastating, are also almost eradicated.
How Vaccines Work
Vaccines contain a weakened form of the disease-causing germ. They’re injected into the body, and the immune system creates antibodies to fight off the germs. These antibodies stay in the body long after the germs from the vaccine are gone, so they can attack the real disease before it makes you sick.
Not all diseases require vaccines. Mild illnesses, such as the common cold, don’t cause complications and can usually be fought off by your body naturally. However, more severe illnesses can lead to disability or death, and vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your child.
Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child
Vaccines are eradicating serious diseases.
Many diseases are eradicated or close to being eradicated because of immunization. Every single person who gets vaccinated helps society get closer to eliminating these diseases.
Vaccines are safe.
Vaccines are only administered once doctors, scientists, and other experts have studied them for years and are convinced they’re perfectly safe. In very rare cases, vaccines can cause side effects. The most common side effect is an allergic reaction. However, Dr. Saad Saad and other professionals agree that the benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh the risks of side effects.
Vaccines protect children with weakened immune systems.
Some diseases can affect babies who are too young to receive vaccines or children who can’t be immunized because they have weakened immune systems. Because certain children can’t be vaccinated, it’s critical that healthy children be immunized to avoid spreading a disease to someone who’s vulnerable.
Vaccines save time and money.
If your child gets sick with an illness that could have been prevented with a vaccine, you’ll have to stay home from work to take care of them. Medicine, doctor visits, and other expenses can be costly, too. Most insurance policies cover vaccines, and it’s much faster and easier to have your child vaccinated than to stay home for days or weeks due to sickness.
Vaccines protect future children.
Vaccines have already eradicated several diseases, and several more will probably be eliminated soon. Getting vaccinated will reduce the risk of serious illness for future generations, so your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren can live longer, healthier lives.
Common Myths About Vaccines
It’s easy for misinformation to spread over the internet and through word of mouth. Parents care about their children’s health, so they worry when they hear these misconceptions. Dr. Saad Saad assures his patients that these rumors are not true. Here are some of the most common myths about vaccines:
Myth: Vaccines cause autism.
Fact: Researchers have never found a link between vaccines and autism. One paper suggested a connection, but the information has been discredited, and the doctor has lost his medical license. In fact, research shows that infants are likely born with autism before any vaccines are administered.
Myth: Vaccines contain harmful toxins.
Fact: Some vaccines contain very small amounts of substances that are harmful in large doses, such as aluminum, mercury, and formaldehyde. However, vaccines have such small concentrations of these substances that no harm can be done.
Myth: Vaccines cause the diseases they’re supposed to prevent.
Fact: This misconception is especially common regarding the flu shot. The flu vaccine contains dead viruses, so it’s impossible to get sick from it. Other vaccines contain a weakened germ or virus, so while you may experience mild symptoms, you won’t develop the disease from the vaccine.
About Dr. Saad Saad
In his 40-year medical career, Dr. Saad Saad has performed thousands of pediatric surgeries. He earned his medical degree from Cairo University and completed an internship in England before moving to the United States for a residency. He currently retired, but his practice was based in Eatontown, New Jersey.
More advice from Dr. Saad Saad: https://weeklyopinion.com/2018/08/advice-dr-saad-saad-child-swallows-foreign-object/