What is shaken baby syndrome?
syndrome (SBS) is a form of child abuse. It refers to brain injury that happens
to the child. It occurs when someone shakes a baby or slams or throws a baby
against an object. A child could be shaken by the arms, legs, chest, or
Some experts use the term shaken-impact syndrome,
because injury from throwing a child against a surface can equal that of
shaking. Many doctors use the term "abusive head trauma" or "intentional head
Shaken baby syndrome often occurs when a baby won't stop
crying and a caregiver who is frustrated shakes the baby. To help prevent this
problem, learn healthy ways to relieve stress and anger. And carefully choose
your child care providers.
Normal play, such as bouncing a child
on a knee or gently tossing a child in the air, does not cause shaken baby
Shaken baby syndrome occurs mostly in children younger
than 3. It is most common in babies younger than 1 year of age. But it also can
affect children up to age 5. Shaken baby syndrome can cause serious long-term
What causes the brain injury?
Shaking or throwing
a child, or slamming a child against an object, causes uncontrollable forward,
backward, and twisting head movement. Brain tissue, blood vessels, and nerves
tear. The child?s skull can hit the brain with force, causing brain tissue to
bleed and swell.
Young children are most likely to have brain
injury when they are shaken or thrown because they have:
- Heavy, large heads for their body
- Weak neck muscles that do not hold up the head well.
- Delicate blood vessels in their brains.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms vary among kids
based on their age, how often they've been abused, how long they were abused
each time, and how much force was used.
Mild injuries may cause
subtle symptoms. A child may vomit or be fussy or grouchy, sluggish, or not
very hungry. More severe injuries may cause
seizures, a slow heartbeat, trouble hearing, or
bleeding inside one or both eyes.
It is important to get help if
something doesn't seem right with your baby. Shaken baby syndrome may cause
only mild symptoms at first, but any head injury in a young child can be
dangerous. A child who has
trouble breathing, is
unconscious, or has seizures needs hospital care right
Symptoms can start quickly, especially in a badly injured
child. Other times, it may take a few days for brain swelling to show symptoms.
Often the caregiver who shook the child puts the child to bed in the hope that
symptoms will get better with rest. By the time the child gets to a doctor, the
child needs urgent care. In some cases, the child may be in a coma before a
caregiver seeks help.