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Recovering from a mild brain injury

Also called a concussion, most people will make a full recovery from a mild brain injury and should start to feel better in a few days and be ‘back to normal’ in a few weeks.

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See your doctor

The health information below is for general educational purposes only. Always consult your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you.

This information is for mild brain injury in adults only, not children.

In a small number of cases, serious complications can develop in the first 24 hours after injury, so make sure you’re in the care of an adult during this time.

You can download our mild brain injury discharge advice which is also available in other languages.

In the first 24 hours after injury

Can I go to sleep? Yes. Just make sure you’re in the care of another adult.

Immediately see your doctor, go to the hospital’s emergency department or call 000 if you or your carer notices any of these symptoms:

  • feeling faint or drowsy
  • can’t be woken up
  • acting strange, saying things that don’t make sense
  • have a constant severe headache or a headache that gets worse
  • cannot remember new events, or recognise people or places
  • pass out, have a blackout or a seizure
  • cannot move parts of your body
  • clumsiness
  • have blurred vision or slurred speech
  • have fluid or bleeding from the ear or nose
  • have loss of hearing
  • vomiting more than twice

In the first 4 weeks after injury

Rest/sleeping

It is important to get adequate amounts of sleep and mental rest to allow your brain to recover.

Pain relief

Use paracetamol or paracetamol/codeine for headaches, don’t use aspirin or an anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as ibuprofen or naproxen (NSAIDs).

Driving

Don’t drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours, and you shouldn’t drive or operate machinery at all until you feel you can concentrate properly.

Drinking/drugs

Don’t drink alcohol, take sleeping pills or recreational drugs for 48 hours. All of these will make you feel much worse and make it hard for other people to tell whether the injury is affecting you or not.

If you are taking medication prescribed by your doctor, do not stop taking them unless advised to do so by a doctor.

Sports

Don’t play sports or do strenuous physical activities for 48 hours and until you are free from any symptoms.

It’s dangerous for the brain to be injured again if it hasn’t recovered from the first injury. Talk to your doctor about a gradual return to sports and physical activities.

And remember: if in doubt, sit it out.

Work/study

You may need to take time off work or study if you're having trouble concentrating or remembering things. Everybody is different. Discuss this with your doctor and your employer.

Relationships

Sometimes your symptoms can affect your relationship with family and friends, such as having a short temper or anxiety. Talk to your doctor if you, your family or friends have any concerns.

Take an active role in your recovery

Like any injury you may have some symptoms and it can take some time for you to recover.

Here are some ways to help you manage these common symptoms:

Physical changes like dizziness or headaches

  • avoid very sudden movements, such as getting up too quickly
  • avoid loud noises and bright lights
  • treat your headaches as you would normally, for example take medication or have a rest  as headaches can be made worse by being tired

Difficulty thinking, concentrating or remembering

  • take regular breaks
  • make ‘to do’ lists or reminders to help jog your memory
  • delay doing activities that require a lot of attention

Changes to your sleep pattern and lack of energy

  • if you feel sleepy, go to bed – even if it is the middle of the day
  • it may help to sleep for longer periods than usual
  • slow down the pace of your daily activities
  • plan to do activities when you have the most energy and schedule rest breaks
  • prioritise what needs to be done

Remember if you are very tired you may be irritable and have more physical symptoms - so give yourself a break!

Differences in the way you feel and respond

  • talk to family and friends about how you are feeling
  • do activities you enjoy
  • try to avoid stressful or annoying situations

Remember most people will make a full recovery and you should start to feel better in a few days. However if you are concerned about how you are felling, or if you are not improving, see your doctor.

Further information

Concussion in sport

Concussion in Sport is a government funded website that provides simple but specific advisory tools for children, athletes, teachers, coaches and medical practitioners.

It also includes a joint position statement with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) on concussion in sport.

Other languages

Our mild brain injury discharge advice is available to download in these languages (translations):