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Saliva test can help diagnose concussion, persistent symptoms

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PHILADELPHIA (UKTN) – Diagnosing and treating concussions can be challenging, especially in children who often struggle to articulate what they’re experiencing. Now, researchers in Ohio are studying a unique method that could help predict which children will experience persistent symptoms.

Senior Thomas Helsel is used to taking hits. But two years ago he was sidelined with a concussion.

“It was a blow to the back of the head. And I remember lying on the floor and people around me and I was a little dizzy and confused,” Helsel said.

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Helsel says the recovery process was slow.

“I experienced a lot of headaches right after that, some difficulty thinking and focusing on certain things and sometimes, especially in school, and I want to say that lasted for a few months,” Helsel said.

Most symptoms usually disappear within a few weeks, but up to a third of children develop persistent symptoms, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Now researchers are looking at saliva’s potential ability to help identify which children are at higher risk for persistent symptoms.

“In the saliva, we look for these molecules called microRNAs. There are 800 different ones that we look at,” lead researcher Katherine Miller, Ph.D.

Researchers identified 13 that were different in the group of children with long-term concussion recovery compared to the group that had not.

Miller envisions that this non-invasive method can be administered on the sidelines.

“This could indicate some kind of biological event, some kind of reaction that this child has, that their body is reacting differently than other children with a typical recovery,” Miller said.

The saliva test continues and for now there is still no proven way to know who will have severe or persistent symptoms of a concussion.