Abusive Head Trauma

Training Module

Learn about preventing head injuries in this 1-hour training.

Abusive Head Trauma

Falls can cause serious head and spinal injuries. When children fall or hit their heads, watch for signs of serious injury, such as:

  • bleeding from the nose, ears, or eyes
  • fainting and unconsciousness
  • dizziness, nausea, or vomiting
  • dilated eyes
  • numbness in arms and legs

If you notice these signs, call emergency help (911) immediately.

Preventing Head Injury

When children hurt their head, neck, or back, they may suffer from memory loss, loss or sight or hearing, brain damage, paralysis, or death. Brain and spinal cord injuries can cause permanent damage.

Common causes of injury in children are vehicle crashes, falling down steps or off playground equipment, crashing while riding bicycles, and adults who lose self-control and physically injure the child.

Here are some ways to prevent injury:

  • Always buckle up with a safety seat or seat belt in vehicles, strollers and buggies.
  • Use safety gates at stairs. Do not allow children to play around steps.
  • Watch children carefully on playground equipment. Do not let too many children play on equipment at one time. Young children should not play on tall equipment. Be aware of age restrictions on all playground equipment.
  • Trampolines are prohibited in early childhood programs. Trampolines are dangerous, especially if more than one child uses them at a time.
  • Children should wear helmets when riding bikes, in-line skating, or skateboarding.

Check inside and around your classroom for objects that could fall on children. If they pull on a table, bookshelf, or concrete birdbath, the object could fall on them and cause serious injury.

Abusive Head Trauma

Never shake infants or children for any reason.

When an infant or child is shaken, the violent movement to the head bumps the brain against the skull. This can tear blood vessels and nerves in the brain, causing the brain to swell.

Shaking young children can cause intellectual disability, speech and learning disabilities, behavioral problems, cerebral palsy, paralysis, seizures, hearing loss. blindness, even death.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a leading cause of death from child abuse in the United States. In addition to head trauma, vigorous shaking of infants or young children can result in injuries to the arms, legs, chest, or shoulders. In some cases, shaking is followed by children's heads hitting a bed, chair, wall, floor, or other hard surfaces. The resulting injuries can be as severe as if children had fallen from a third story window.

Never toss infants or young children into the air. The jarring motion can lead to head and neck injuries. They also can be injured by hitting a hard surface, such as the ceiling, ceiling fan, wall or floor.  


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