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Child Maltreatment - Physical Abuse


Physical abuse of a child occurs when someone knowingly harms or places a child in danger. Physical abuse includes punching, beating, kicking, hitting, biting, shaking, throwing, choking, burning, and force-feeding. It may also include disciplining a child with physical punishment that is too much for his age or condition. Harmful force or restraints may also be considered physical abuse.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.


Surgery to treat the child's wounds, fractures, or other injuries may cause bleeding or an infection. If physical abuse is not caught or treated, the child may develop serious health and mental problems. These include alcohol or drug use, depression, and problems with his self-esteem, moods, friendships, and relationships. Repeated acts of violence may lead to severe injuries and be life-threatening. He may even have thoughts of harming himself or others.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.


At first, the child may need to rest in bed and get plenty of sleep. If he has trouble breathing or chest pain, call his healthcare providers right away.


  • Antibiotics may be needed to help prevent or treat an infection.

  • Pain medicine may be needed to decrease the child's pain. Watch the child for signs of pain. Do not let the child wait until his pain is severe before you ask for more pain medicine. Tell healthcare providers if you think the child's pain continues or gets worse.

  • A tetanus shot can prevent the child from getting tetanus, and may be given if he has an open wound. The child should have a tetanus shot if he has not had one in the past 5 to 10 years. His arm may get red, swollen, and sore from this shot.

Your child may need extra oxygen

if his blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask placed over his nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his nostrils. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.


  • Blood and urine tests may show if the child has infection. They may also be used to get information about the child's overall health.

  • Neurologic signs are also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. During a neuro check, healthcare providers see how the child's pupils react to light. They may check his memory and how easily he wakes up. His hand grasp and balance may also be tested. How the child responds to the neuro checks can tell healthcare providers if his illness or injury has affected his brain.

  • X-rays may be done to see if any bones have been broken or are displaced. X-rays of the child's chest and abdomen may also be taken.

  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, is a type of x-ray that takes pictures of the child's head and body. The pictures may show injuries such as bleeding, joint dislocations, or broken bones. The child may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if the child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • An MRI takes pictures of the child's head and body to show injuries such as bleeding, joint dislocations, or broken bones. The child may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if the child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not let the child enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury.


  • Counseling may help the child feel less scared, depressed, or anxious. The child's healthcare provider may suggest that the child see a counselor to help him with how he feels.

  • Surgery may be needed to treat the child's injuries. Surgery can help fix a broken bone. Surgery may also be needed to correct a deformity caused by his injuries.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Child Maltreatment - Physical Abuse (Inpatient Care)