It is a severe brain injury that is caused due to forcefully shaking an infant or a toddler. It results in the destruction of brain’s cells and stops the oxygen necessary for it to reach it. It can result in permanent brain damage or death.
It is a syndrome less known by people. New mothers need to be very careful while handling their little ones. Holding a baby has to be a sensitive action. It sometimes happens that mothers shake their child’s head for sleep or other reasons and it could be dangerous. Most of the times it happens when the child cries and in anger or frustration an elder does it.
Shaken Baby Syndrome can lead to permanently damaging health effects, including death. The following are some of the problems that can result from Shaken Baby Syndrome:
- Loss of consciousness
- Convulsions or seizures
- Inability to nurse or eat
- Cerebral palsy
- Severe motor dysfunction
- Hearing loss
- Developmental delays
- Impaired intellect
- Severe mental retardation
It can happen in children till the age of 5 years. However, maximum number of cases are recorded in 3-8 months of age. It might have a mild effect, but if the same is repeated again and again it can lead to severe symptoms and eventually death.
Many cases of AHT are brought in for medical care as “silent injuries.” In other words, parents or caregivers don’t often provide a history that the child has had abusive head trauma or a shaking injury, so doctors don’t know to look for subtle or physical signs. This can sometimes result in children having injuries that aren’t identified in the medical system.
In many cases, babies who don’t have severe symptoms might not be brought to a doctor. Many of the less severe symptoms such as vomiting or irritability may resolve and can have many non-abuse-related causes.
Unfortunately, unless a doctor has reason to suspect child abuse, mild cases (in which the infant seems lethargic, fussy, or perhaps isn’t feeding well) are often misdiagnosed as a viral illness or colic. Without a suspicion of child abuse and any resulting intervention with the parents or caregivers, these children may be shaken again, worsening any brain injury or damage.
If shaken baby syndrome is suspected, doctors may look for:
- hemorrhages in the retinas of the eyes
- skull fractures
- swelling of the brain
- subdural hematomas (blood collections pressing on the surface of the brain)
- rib and long bone (bones in the arms and legs)
- bruises around the head, neck, or chest
Abusive head trauma is 100% preventable. A key aspect of prevention is increasing awareness of the potential dangers of shaking. Preventive method that can help avoid shaken baby syndrome is the “five S’s” approach, which stands for:
- Shushing (by using “white noise” or rhythmic sounds that mimic the constant whir of noise in the womb. Vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, clothes dryers, a running tub, or a white noise machine can all create this effect.)
- Side/stomach positioning (placing the baby on the left side — to help with digestion — or on the belly while holding him or her. Babies should always be placed on their back to sleep.)
- Sucking (letting the baby breastfeed or bottle-feed, or giving the baby a pacifier or finger to suck on).
- Swaddling (wrapping the baby in a blanket like a “burrito” to help him or her feel more secure. Hips and knees should be slightly bent and turned out).
- Swinging gently (rocking in a chair, using an infant swing, or taking a car ride to help duplicate the constant motion the baby felt in the womb).
If a baby in your care won’t stop crying, you can also try the following:
- Make sure the baby’s basic needs are met (for example, he or she isn’t hungry and doesn’t need to be changed).
- Check for signs of illness, like fever or swollen gums.
- Rock or walk with the baby.
- Sing or talk to the baby.
- Offer the baby a pacifier or a noisy toy.
- Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or strapped into a child safety seat in the car.
- Hold the baby close against your body and breathe calmly and slowly.
- Give the baby a warm bath.
- Pat or rub the baby’s back.
- Call a friend or relative for support or to take care of the baby while you take a break.
- If nothing else works, put the baby on his or her back in the crib, close the door, and check on the baby in 10 minutes.
- Call your doctor if nothing seems to be helping your infant, in case there is a medical reason for the fussiness.
It is important to be sensitive with the actions when you deal with a child. A child is delicate and must be handled with care. Everyone should be aware of it while holding a baby in their hands.