Oakland County issues shaken baby syndrome prevention guidelines

Oakland County Health Division is highlighting the vital importance of preventing shaken baby syndrome in response to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which summarizes a study of shaken baby injuries and deaths. The report, called "Fatal Abusive Head Trauma Among Children < 5 years, United States-1999-2014," recommends making sure everyone who cares for a child knows it is never acceptable to shake, throw, hit or hurt a child and to be cautious about leaving a baby with someone who is easily irritated, has a temper, or has a history of violence.

"Shaken baby syndrome is a preventable tragedy that can have a lifelong impact on a child," said Kathy Forzley, manager/health officer of the Oakland County Health Division. "Knowing what to expect before caring for a child and developing skills to cope with stressful times, such as crying, is key."

Oakland County Health Division says parents and caregivers should remember that crying is a normal way for babies to communicate. Crying increases in the first few months of life, but decreases as the child grows. Try calming a baby by gently rocking, taking a walk with a stroller, or going for a drive. If the baby continues to cry, check for signs of illness and call a doctor if the child may be sick. Frustration from constant crying and challenging child behaviors have been known to lead to severe shaking. The following guidelines can help frustrated parents and caregivers cope with a child's crying and stay safe:

- Place the baby in a safe place, such as a Pack 'N Play or crib.

- Sit down, listen to music, or call a friend or relative for support. Check on the baby every five to 10 minutes.

- Ask a trusted support person for a break.

"If you are a friend or relative of a new parent, provide support by offering to give the parents a break and encourage these healthy coping strategies," Forzley said.

Shaken baby syndrome can cause brain damage leading to developmental disabilities, speech and learning disabilities, paralysis, seizures, hearing loss, and even death. Abusive head trauma, which includes shaken baby syndrome, is the leading cause of physical child abuse deaths in the U.S. This happens when a baby or young child's caregiver violently shakes, hits, or slams the child's head into something.

If one suspects a baby has been shaken, call 911 for immediate medical help. To report child abuse or maltreatment, call Child Protective Services at 855-444-3911 or the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome at 801-447-9360.

For additional information, visit the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome website at www.dontshake.org, The Period of Purple Crying at www.purplecrying.info, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/abusive-head-trauma.

To stay up to date on upcoming public health information, visit www.oakgov.com/health, follow on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter @publichealthOC, or call Nurse on Call at 800-848-5533.

Published: Wed, Jun 22, 2016