Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) – also commonly known as abusive head trauma (AHT) – is a severe and preventable form of child abuse which often results in traumatic brain injury, and in extreme cases can lead to death. Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when a child (usually under the age of five) is forcibly shaken. Even if the shaking is done only for a few seconds, the resulting injuries are almost always severe, and life-altering. Children who have been shaken often experience bleeding behind the eyes, and around the brain which can lead to a variety of disabilities.
Most survivors of SBS suffer from long-term disabilities due to being shaken as a child, including vision problems, physical disabilities, hearing loss, delayed learning, and many others. One in every four children who go through this abuse perishes from their injuries.
Shaken Baby Syndrome and abusive head trauma happen most frequently when a parent or guardian becomes angry or frustrated with the child, and resort to shaking him or her. This most commonly happens to infants who are crying for long periods of time. When the child won’t stop crying, sometimes frustrated adults will shake the child in an effort to stop the crying. However, the actions committed in those few moments of anger can drastically change a child’s entire life.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of abuse that is completely preventable. It is normal for infants to cry for long periods of time, and as they grow older, the crying will subside. Frustration is a natural feeling, but shaking a baby is NEVER the correct response.
If you have a baby that won’t stop crying, take a step back and realize that even just a few seconds of shaking can take your child’s life.
Shaken baby syndrome symptoms and signs include:
- Extreme irritability
- Difficulty staying awake
- Breathing problems
- Poor eating
- Pale or bluish skin
Other injuries that may not be initially noticeable include bleeding in the brain and eye, damage to the spinal cord and neck and fractures of the ribs, and bones. Evidence of prior child abuse also is common.
In mild cases of shaken baby syndrome, a child may appear normal after being shaken, but over time he or she may develop health, learning or behavior problems.
When to see a doctor
Seek immediate help if you suspect your child has been injured by violent shaking.
Contact your child’s doctor or take your child to the nearest emergency room. Getting medical care right away may save your child’s life or prevent serious health problems.
Healthcare professionals are legally required to report all suspected cases of child abuse to state authorities.
Never shake a baby!
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