Brain Injury Symptoms & Difficulties

Brain Injury Symptoms & Difficulties

Your child may experience a variety of symptoms or difficulties following a brain injury - it depends on the type of injury and how serious the injury is. Common symptoms include tiredness and changes in thinking, behaviour and emotion.

Key points to remember about symptoms and difficulties after brain injury

  • your child may experience a variety of symptoms or difficulties following a brain injury - it depends on the type of injury and how serious the injury is
  • if your child has a mild brain injury or concussion, they will usually get better in a short period of time
  • but, symptoms can last much longer if your child has a more serious brain injury

What symptoms or difficulties can my child with a brain injury experience?

Your child may experience a variety of symptoms or difficulties following a brain injury - it depends on:

  • the type of injury - a brain injury may occur due to an accident, such as a fall (which is called a traumatic brain injury) or due to an illness that affects the brain
  • how serious the brain injury is

What symptoms or difficulties can my child with a mild brain injury experience?

Most children who have a mild traumatic brain injury (also called a concussion) get better within 2 to 3 weeks although they can take a little longer. Symptoms you may notice include:

  • headache
  • tiredness
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • some dizziness
  • being sensitive to light, noise or busy environments
  • being more grumpy or irritable or getting upset easily
  • taking longer to process information or respond to questions
  • finding it harder to concentrate on schoolwork or other activities

You can also check Caring for your child after their head injury (PDF, 2.64MB) for advice on:

Image of ACC resource - Caring for your child after their head injury

  • how to care for your child after a mild brain injury/concussion
  • warning signs to watch for
  • when to seek medical help
  • when to return to school, sport and other activities

Your doctor or hospital staff can also give you advice. If your child has more symptoms or their symptoms are taking a while to improve, they may need to see a concussion service funded by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

What symptoms or difficulties can my child with a more serious brain injury experience?

Children who have a more serious brain injury (whether through an accident or illness) can have longer-term problems. These can continue to affect them after they have left the hospital. Common long-term symptoms include tiredness (or fatigue) and changes in thinking, behaviour and emotion.

Tiredness (mental and physical)

  • needing more sleep at night and feeling sleepy in the daytime
  • running out of brain energy quickly while concentrating on schoolwork
  • getting tired more easily after physical activities

See Brain injury and mental fatigue on this website. 

Other physical symptoms

Other physical symptoms can include:

  • headaches
  • ongoing sensitivity to noisy or busy environments
  • problems with balance and coordination

Thinking difficulties

Children may have difficulties with their thinking (also called cognitive difficulties). These can include:

  • difficulty concentrating, staying focussed and taking in information to learn
  • difficulty holding things in memory
  • difficulties with planning and organisation

See:

Behavioural/emotional symptoms

Your child may experience behaviour and emotional changes, such as:

  • getting upset or angry more easily
  • behaving more impulsively
  • being restless or overactive
  • being easily distracted
  • having difficulty coping with change

The content on this page has been developed and approved by the Paediatric Rehabilitation Team and the Clinical Neuropsychology Team, Consult Liaison, Starship Child Health.

This page last reviewed 23 November 2019.
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