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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Overview

Sudden infant death syndrome (also known as SIDS) is defined as the sudden death of an infant younger than 1 year of age. If the child's death remains unexplained after a formal investigation into the circumstances of the death (including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history), the death is then attributed to SIDS. Sudden infant death is a tragic event for any parent or caregiver.

  • SIDS is suspected when a previously healthy infant, usually younger than 6 months of age, is found dead in bed. In most cases, no sign of distress is identifiable. The baby typically feeds normally prior to being placed in bed to sleep. The infant is then discovered lifeless, without pulse or respiration. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be initiated at the scene, but evidence shows a lack of beneficial effect from CPR. The cause of death remains unknown despite a careful review of the medical history, scene investigation, X-rays, and autopsy.


    • SIDS is rare during the first month of life. Risk peaks in infants 2-4 months of age and then declines.


    • About 90% of SIDS deaths occur in infants younger than 6 months of age.

  • Even though the specific cause (or causes) of SIDS remains unknown, scientific efforts have eliminated several previously held theories. We now know the following about SIDS:


    • Apnea (cessation of breathing) of prematurity and apnea of infancy are felt to be clinical conditions that are distinct from SIDS. Infants with apnea may be managed with electronic monitors prescribed by doctors that track heart rate and respiratory activity. Apnea monitors will not prevent SIDS.


    • SIDS is not predictable or preventable.


    • Infants may experience episodes termed apparent life-threatening events (ALTEs). These are clinical events in which young infants may experience abrupt changes in breathing, color, or muscle tone. Common causes of ALTEs include viral respiratory infection (RSV), gastroesophageal reflux disease, or seizure. However, no definite scientific evidence links ALTEs as events that may lead to SIDS.


    • SIDS is not caused by immunizations or bad parenting.


    • SIDS is not contagious or hereditary.


    • SIDS is not anyone's fault.
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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome »

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is defined as the sudden death of an infant younger than 1 year that remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including the performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the scene of death, and review of the clinical history.

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