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Shaken Baby Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is shaken baby syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome is brain injury caused by violent shaking. It is also called abusive head trauma. Intense shaking causes your baby's brain to bleed, bruise, and swell. This leads to decreased oxygen to your baby's brain. It may result in permanent, severe brain damage and can be life-threatening.

What increases the risk for shaken baby syndrome?

Anyone caring for a baby may get frustrated, frightened, or angry due to the baby's uncontrolled crying. The person may shake the baby out of frustration, in a desire to stop the baby from crying. This is considered child abuse, even if it is an accident. Shaken baby syndrome is most common in babies but can happen to children up to 5 years of age.

What are the signs of shaken baby syndrome?

How is shaken baby syndrome diagnosed?

Healthcare providers often look for certain injuries. These include any bruising in babies younger than 4 months, and bruising around the ears, neck, and torso of children younger than 4 years. Your baby may need any of the following tests:

How is shaken baby syndrome treated?

What are the risks of shaken baby syndrome?

A baby who has shaken baby syndrome may have bleeding into the eyes. This may lead to blindness. He or she may also have developmental delays, nerve and muscle problems, or slow growth as he or she gets older. These problems may require lifelong medical care. Shaken baby syndrome can be life-threatening.

Keep emergency phone numbers handy:

Keep a list of phone numbers where you can find them quickly in an emergency. The Childhelp National Abuse Helpline number is 1-800-422-4453 . Also include phone numbers of people you trust and local police or emergency phone numbers.

What should I do if my baby will not stop crying?

What can I do to prevent shaken baby syndrome?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my baby's doctor?

Care Agreement

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

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.