Never Shake a Baby!
Each year, more than 1,300 American children are forcefully shaken by their caretakers. Powerful or violent acts of shaking may lead to serious brain damage—a condition called “shaken baby syndrome” (SBS). The American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of 55,000 pediatricians, pediatric medical sub-specialists and pediatric surgical specialists, considers shaken baby syndrome to be a clear and serious form of child abuse. Shaken baby syndrome often involves children younger than 2 years but may be seen in children up to 5 years of age.
What is shaken baby syndrome?
The term “shaken baby syndrome” is used for the internal head injuries a baby or young child sustains from being violently shaken. Babies and young children have very weak neck muscles to control their heavy heads. If shaken, their heads wobble rapidly back and forth, which can result in the brain being bruised from banging against the skull wall.
Generally, shaking happens when someone gets frustrated with a baby or small child. Usually the shaker is fed up with constant crying. However, many adults enjoy tossing children in the air, mistaking the child’s excitement and anxious response for pleasure. Tossing children, even gently, may be harmful and can cause major health problems later on in life.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Signs of shaken baby syndrome may vary from mild and nonspecifi c to severe. Although there may be no obvious external signs of injury following shaking, the child may suffer internal injuries. Shaking can cause brain damage, partial or total blindness, deafness, learning problems, retardation, cerebral palsy, seizures, speech difficulties and even death. Damage from shaking may not be noticeable for years. It could show up when the child goes to school and is not able to keep up with classmates.
Tips for prevention
Shaken baby syndrome is completely preventable.
- Never shake a baby—not in anger, impatience, play, or for any reason.
- Avoid tossing small children into the air.
Reprinted with the permission of the California Childcare Health Program.
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