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Abusive Head Trauma

Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) is an inflicted traumatic brain injury that occurs when a baby is violently shaken or slammed. Shaking has serious impact on children under the age of two because their neck muscles are generally weak and the head is quite large in comparison with the body. An infant’s skull is relatively unstable and still developing, so the brain of an infant is not well-protected like that of an adult.

Symptoms of AHT are:

  • Altered level of consciousness – sleepy, yet irritable, or may have seizures or even be in a coma
  • Eyes unable to focus
  • Inability to lift head
  • Poor sucking or swallowing
  • Rigidity or posturing
  • Head or forehead appears larger than usual or soft-spot on head appears to be bulging
  • Lethargy/decreased muscle tone
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Signs of shock: pale, sweating, vomiting, listless
  • May have abdominal and/or chest injuries present

Source: Kansas Department for Children and Families.

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