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Shaken Baby Concerns

By: Bill Pearson
By: Bill Pearson

There is a growing concern in our area about the number of babies affected by Shaken Baby Syndrome. It's a problem not just associated with angry parents.

The tiny infants will soon have a full and exciting life at home with family and friends, but south Georgia health officials are asking everyone to avoid shaking or jarring these children because the results can be deadly.

Lisa Thomas, child health coordinator, says, "When you have the child and you're moving it vigorously, whether it's backwards or forward, up and down, you're causing what they call an effect when the brain is bumping the sides of the skull on the inside and you're causing trauma of some kind."

It’s trauma that can go undetected for years, and while the experts say it's pretty obvious that tough, hard shaking of a child is not healthy, this is the time of year they want to remind family members that even fun, light, tossing in the air can be dangerous and even deadly to children.

Thomas adds, "It's not good to shake the baby vigorously. If you want to have fun with the child then there are other acts that you can do that do not cause that type of movement to occur within the child."

Health officials say it's also a good idea to make sure your baby is lying down on its back when you set it in the crib. Officials hope this advice can help protect thousands of children in our area.

Health advocates compare the damage caused by Shaken Baby Syndrome to the head trauma an adult suffers in a major automobile accident.

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What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a term used to describe the constellation of symptoms resulting from violent shaking or shaking and impacting of the head of an infant or small child.

The degree of brain damage depends on the amount and duration of the shaking and the forces involved in impact of the head. Signs and symptoms range on a spectrum of neurological alterations from minor (irritability, lethargy, tremors, vomiting) to major (seizures, coma, stupor, death).

These neurological changes are due to destruction of brain cells secondary to trauma, lack of oxygen to the brain cells, and swelling of the brain.

Extensive retinal hemorrhages in one or both eyes are found in the vast majority of these cases.

The classic triad of subdural hematoma, brain swelling and retinal hemorrhages are accompanied in some, but not all, cases by bruising of the part of the body used as a "handle" for shaking.

Fractures of the long bones and/or of the ribs may also be seen in some cases. In many cases, however, there is no external evidence of trauma either to the head or the body.

Approximately 20 percent of cases are fatal in the first few days after injury and the survivors suffer from handicaps ranging from mild (learning disorders, behavioral changes) to moderate and severe, such as profound mental and developmental retardation, paralysis, blindness, inability to eat or a permanent vegetative state.

How to Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

It is important to note that SBS is preventable. Shaking occurs frequently when a frustrated care giver loses control with an inconsolable crying baby.

It is important to realize just saying "don't shake a baby" is not enough. A plan of action or suggestions to deal with the situation need to be offered.

Parents and other care providers need assurance that allowing a baby to cry is okay if all their needs have been met. The care provider should address their stress level and try stress management.

Parents should share the message of the dangers of shaking with all who care for their infant or child, including spouses, their own parents, siblings, day care providers and others.

Parents need to let those caring for the infant know that it is okay to call for help when needed.

A baby's crying is not a reflection on how good a parent or care provider on is. Babies cry as a way of communicating their needs.

The Shaken Baby Syndrome Programs and Resources for the United States directory is available from the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. It can be obtained by calling 888-273-0071 or by email at dontshake@mindspring.com.

Source: http://www.dontshake.com/sbsquestions.html (National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome).


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