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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?

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.
    • Most 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.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/22/2016
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Can SIDS be Prevented?

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Put your baby to sleep on his or her back, not on the side or tummy.
  • Once your baby learns to roll from the back to the belly, you do not need to keep shifting your baby onto his or her back.
  • Do not let your baby get too hot and do not overheat the bedroom where your baby sleeps.
  • Consider offering your baby a pacifier at nap time and bedtime if your doctor agrees.
  • When your baby is awake and someone is watching, allow your baby to spend some time on his or her belly.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you do not sleep with your baby.
  • Talk with your child care providers about these safety steps.
  • Be wary of products that are billed as helping prevent SIDS.
  • Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke in the house or around your baby.
  • Breast-feeding your child may help prevent SIDS.

SOURCE: Healthwise

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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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