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What're the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome?

Physicians may have difficulty initially diagnosing shaken baby syndrome because there are usually few witnesses to give a reliable account of the events leading to the trauma, few if any external injuries, and, upon close examination, the physical findings may not agree with the account given. A shaken baby may present one or more signs, including vomiting; difficulty breathing, sucking, swallowing, or making sounds; seizures; and altered consciousness.

Infants who have been shaken may have symptoms ranging from irritability or lethargy and vomiting, to seizures or unconsciousness with interrupted breathing or death. Babies with relatively mild shaking have symptoms similar to a viral illness. Caregivers and even physicians who are not aware of what has happened to the baby may not detect the head injury, or rib and long bone fractures, and may attribute the baby’s fussiness to a more benign cause such as the ‘flu’.

The more serious the child’s neurological injury, the more severe the symptoms, and the shorter the period of time between the shaking and the appearance of symptoms. From the time of the shaking, these children do not look or act as usual – they may not eat or sleep or play normally.

Babies who are shaken may be brought to medical attention by a caregiver who offers no history of injury, a vague account of events or an explanation that is not consistent with the physical findings. Unless the physician is aware of the possibility of abuse and knowledgeable about the signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome, the cause of these children’s symptoms can be missed.

More information on shaken baby syndrome

What is shaken baby syndrome? - Shaken baby syndrome is a collective term for the internal head injuries a baby or young child sustains from being violently shaken.
What causes shaken baby syndrome? - Infants and small children are especially vulnerable to shaken baby syndrome because their neck muscles are still too weak to adequately support their disproportionately large heads.
What're the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome? - Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome include vomiting, difficulty breathing, sucking, swallowing, or making sounds, seizures, and altered consciousness.
How is a shaken baby syndrome diagnosed? - The diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome is usually made by an eye exam. The diagnosis is confirmed by the results of either a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
What's the treatment for shaken baby syndrome? - Children with shaken baby syndrome may need physical therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, and special education services.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005