Shaken baby syndrome

Life can change within blink of an eye. The realization only comes once it actually happens to you. Asmara was almost two months old when her mother left her at home with her husband to attend her son’s parent-teacher meeting. When the mother came back after two hours, Asmara was peacefully sleeping in her father’s arms. Seeing one’s child in such calm gives the mother relief no one can imagine. Unfortunately, this relief was just temporary. Just after three days, one side of Asmara’s body started shaking. She was immediately rushed to the hospital’s emergency. After a series of tests, the doctors confirmed that she has shaken baby syndrome (SBS). sni

The doctors asked if anything serious had happened to her lately. Like, did she fall down or something? The mother refused any such thing happened. But her husband informed that three days ago when he had to take care of the baby, he shook her violently to make her stop crying because she just would not stop crying. Asmara is a year old now but she has multiple major physical problems. Yes, their life changed within blink of an eye.sni

What is shaken baby syndrome?sni

Dr Akbar Rana, a Neurologist in Multan explains that shaken baby syndrome represents a type of damage that occurs in brain when a child is shaken violently. It is a serious neurological disorder. A baby’s body is immensely delicate as it has soft muscles around the neck and contrary to that has a big head and a big body.sni

Violent shaking of body can lead to unbelievable outcomes especially in brain portion. A baby’s head can weigh one fourth of its total body weight. Any sort of aggressive shake even though in a playful manner, can cause the head to throw out of balance resulting in permanent or fatal brain damage or even death because of internal injury or bleeding. It is just like an earthquake.  It is also known as abusive head trauma. Parents of course do not shake their infant to hurt him.sni

Signs & symptoms

The syndrome usually occurs during the first year of life. However, kids as old as five years can also suffer if shaken cruelly. It is never okay to shake or throw a young child in the air. Initially, a child looks normal after shaking. The signs and symptoms may not be visible until internal damage is already done.sni

Vomiting, poor appetite, difficulty in breathing, seizures or fits, lethargy, loss of concentration, irritable behavior, pale or blue colored skin due to lack of oxygen, inability to lift head and focused eyes are the signs that must ring an alarm. Symptoms can vary individually and according to the severity. Many cases however are brought to the hospital as silent injury.sni

Consequences

Baby’s immature skull is thinner and blood vessels more prone to tearing than elders. It is not necessary that it occurs only after multiple episodes of shaking. Dr Akbar explains that sometimes, a single episode can ruin the child’s life. Most infants who survive from this can suffer lifelong impairments like physical, mental or learning disabilities.sni

More possible consequences of SBS may be blindness (partial or complete), broken ribs, paralysis, cerebral palsy or even death.sni

Diagnosis & treatment

Different types of tests can be performed to assess the problem like MRI, CT scan, and X-ray of skull. Treatment is suggested as supportive therapy and depends on the type of abuse. The baby should be taken to the hospital at once for close monitoring. Doctors watch for signs of brain swelling, bleeding or breathing difficulties. On confirmation, the child is kept in ICU (intensive care unit), where treatment is carried out accordingly.sni

Prevention

SBS is preventable but a key aspect of prevention is awareness. A baby who cries for no reason can surely be a matter of concern. When you lose patience in handling a baby, it is better to just leave him in the crib or hand him over to another adult and walk out of the room to calm down. Be mindful of your emotional impulses while raising an infant.sni

The national centre on SBS in America suggests making sure the baby’s basic needs such as hunger, diapering are met. Check the signs of illness, pain, teething and fever. Sing or talk to your baby, offer a musical toy during tantrum or take a baby for a ride, drive in a stroller or car for comforting him. Give him a warm bath or massage to relax him or you can also call a responsible helper.sni

There is no line between what is safe rocking and what is vigorous rocking. Gentle rocking in lap is possibly the safest way to calm a baby. It is generally seen that fathers are short tempered. So, do not hand over your cranky baby to him when he is tired or angered.sni

Having a baby is a beautiful feeling. The way you treat your child goes a long way in deciding their future and fate. It is important for parents to know how much is too much.sni

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