June is Brain Injury Awareness Month

The Brain Injury Association of Canada, its partners and community of survivors, caregivers and health professionals, have designated June as National Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada. The goal is to increase general awareness across Canada of the effects and causes of acquired brain injury.

Statistics from The Ontario Brain Injury Association website provide insight into just how pervasiveness brain injuries are in our community. Consider that:

• Within the next hour, 6 Canadians will suffer a brain injury
• An estimated 1.3 million Canadians are living with an acquired brain injury right now
• 1 in 10 people will know someone who will suffer a brain injury this year
• Brain injuries are the number one killer and disabler of people under the age of 44
• More than 18,000 Ontarians will suffer a brain injury this year
• 1 in 5 sports related injuries are head injuries

It is important to understand that a brain injury can occur without any visible damage to the head. Some signs or symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear much later.

In support of Brain Injury Awareness month, we have listed various signs and symptoms of a brain injury to watch out for.  Please note that the terms “mild,” “moderate” and “severe” below are used to describe the effect of the injury on brain function. A “mild” injury to the brain is still a serious injury that requires prompt attention and an accurate diagnosis.

Mild traumatic brain injury

The signs and symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) may include:

• Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
• No loss of consciousness, but a state of being dazed, confused or disoriented
• Memory or concentration problems
• Headache
• Dizziness or loss of balance
• Nausea or vomiting
• Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears or a bad taste in the mouth
• Sensitivity to light or sound
• Mood changes or mood swings
• Feeling depressed or anxious
• Fatigue or drowsiness
• Difficulty sleeping
• Sleeping more than usual

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury can include any of the signs and symptoms of mild injury, as well as the following symptoms that may appear within the first hours to days after a head injury:

• Loss of consciousness from a few minutes to hours
• Profound confusion
• Agitation, combativeness or other unusual behavior
• Slurred speech
• Inability to awaken from sleep
• Weakness or numbness in the extremities
• Loss of coordination
• Loss of bladder control or bowel control
• Persistent headache or headache that worsens
• Repeated vomiting or nausea
• Convulsions or seizures
• Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
• Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears

Children’s symptoms

Infants and young children with brain injuries often lack the communication skills to report headaches, sensory problems, confusion and other symptoms. In a child with traumatic brain injury, you may observe:

• Change in nursing or eating habits
• Persistent crying
• Unusual or easy irritability
• Change in ability to pay attention
• Inability to be consoled
• Change in sleep habits
• Sad or depressed mood
• Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities

The Brain Injury Association of Canada urges Canadians to become involved with grassroot brain injury associations and to listen to survivor stories and family members speak about the support and guidance they have received. We  echo the Association’s plea to  all Canadians (children, parents and seniors), to help prevent acquired brain injuries this summer and all year round by wearing helmets while engaged in sporting and recreational activities and for all automobile drivers to drive safely.

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