Oban 3 - Children playing on the sandy beach at Ganavan near Oban.

Perfect playground on the shore – but perfect safety cannot be guaranteed.

By Bill Heaney

Summer holidays. Heart in mouth. Watching children climbing trees. Diving off piers. Or just playing in the park on perfectly safe play equipment. You moan about it, warn about it, complain about it and then it happens.

It’s every parent, grandparent, child minder, kindly neighbour’s worst nightmare.

One of the children you have agreed to look after and take out for a treat falls off a tree and bangs his head.

Vinegar and brown paper may have been the answer in Jack and Jill stories, but today, in the 21st century, it does not cut the mustard.

Every year, many thousands of young patients attend a hospital emergency department following a head injury.

It’s the most common injury treated in the local health board’s Royal Hospital for Children’s emergency department, with 5,611 paediatric patients attending last year alone.

Symptoms of concussion can include headache, fatigue, poor concentration, poor balance or co-ordination, sensitivity to light or noise, changes in mood and nausea.

Fortunately, the vast majority of paediatric patients are able to go home following assessment and treatment.

Now, new guidance has been produced for parents to let them know when their child can return to normal activities after a knock to the head.

The guidance, ‘After Concussion, Return to Normality’, has been produced to empower families to manage the symptoms of concussion safely at home with an aim to providing symptom relief, preventing unnecessary re-admission to hospital and getting the child back to school as soon as it is safe to do so.

And whilst many children will welcome the news that they should not return to school immediately, less pleasing may be the advice that there should be no screen time for 24 hours and no computer games for 48 hours following a concussion.

Drawn up by a team of experts including emergency consultants, emergency nurse practitioners and GPs, a paediatric general surgeon and neurology consultant, the guidance is being given to carers and parents of children and adolescents who present with a head injury.

It is also being distributed across all NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde emergency departments and minor injury units, as well as to GP surgeries, primary care teams and education departments.

Mark Lilley is the Major Trauma Co-ordinator at the hospital and was involved in producing the guidance along with colleagues.

He said: “On moving to the new RHC over 4 years ago we increased our age limit for treating patients to 16 years old.  This brought with it new injury patterns and higher impact injuries.

“Although there was already good guidance on how to safely return to sport after a concussion injury, we felt that we could give better guidance on how to safely return to other normal daily activities, particularly school.

“Developing this guidance has been an exciting process.  Our example of a three staged route, with the use of a traffic light system, gives parents and children the confidence to safely move through the journey to recovery.”

George Oommen, Emergency Department Consultant, Royal Hospital for Children, added:  “Concussion and its impact has and is continuing to change the face of sports.

“What ACoRN does is highlight the importance of children’s ‘brain health’.  It has been an excellent multi-disciplinary team group approach to ensuring our patients have the best outcomes after suffering concussion.”

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