Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) refers to the unexpected, unexplained death of a child less than one year old. SIDS is rare during the first month of life. It peaks at 2 to 4 months of age, then gradually decreases.
Experts do not know why some infants suddenly die. Research hopes to find a preventable cause. Many theories exist. It is likely that research will reveal that among babies who die of SIDS there are several different, but important causes. Some suggested causes include:
Abnormalities in a section of the brain that controls breathing during sleep and waking
Abnormalities in the control of heart rhythm
Changes in how serotonin, a neurotransmitter, functions in the brain
Changes in some components of the immune system
Inadequate arousal response to breathing obstruction or asphyxia (a lack of oxygen or excess carbon dioxide in the body caused by interruption of breathing; may cause unconsciousness)
Area of the brain involved in regulation of breathing.
Low socioeconomic status or low level of education
No pacifier use at bed time
A baby that dies of SIDS typically appears healthy. He or she may have had a
or gastrointestinal infection in the two weeks prior to death. There usually are no warning signs that a baby is about to die of SIDS.
All possible illnesses and causes of death must be ruled out before a diagnosis of SIDS is made. A complete investigation will take place including:
Assessment of the death scene
Review of the baby's and family's medical histories
Emergency medical personnel should be called as soon as the infant is discovered not breathing. Infant CPR should be started immediately. Seek immediate medical care even if the baby starts breathing again. The cause of the incident should be fully evaluated. Families may need grief counseling after the death. Some parents find support groups helpful.
There is no way to predict which infants will die of SIDS. Several actions may help you lower your child's risk of SIDS:
Get prenatal care early and regularly.
Do not smoke or use drugs while pregnant.
Put the baby down to sleep on his or her back. Do not allow a young baby to sleep on his or her stomach or side. Back to sleep practices have significantly reduced the occurrence of SIDS in many countries. Ask your doctor for more information about positioning your baby for sleep.
Other factors that may help reduce SIDS risk include:
Provide a firm crib mattress.
Do not place blankets, a comforter, pillow, or sheepskin under the baby.
Do not let the baby sleep on a waterbed.
Remove soft, stuffed toys from the bed.
Keep the baby's room at a comfortable temperature (68°F-72°F).
Do not overdress the baby.
Allow pacifier use during nap time and bedtime.
Do not cover the baby's head or face.
Do not smoke in the house, or quit entirely.
Take the baby for regular medical care.
Have your child immunized at the recommended times.
Learn infant CPR.
Allow the infant to sleep in their crib in the same room you sleep in (but do not let them sleep in the same bed)
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend use of an apnea monitor solely for prevention of SIDS. It has not been shown to make a difference.
Make sure anyone else caring for your child is also aware of these recommendations, especially that the baby should be placed on his or her back for sleeping.
American Academy of Pediatrics SIDS Task Force. The changing concept of sudden infant death syndrome: diagnostic coding shifts, controversies regarding the sleeping environment, and new variables to consider in reducing risk.
Galland BC et al. Prone versus supine sleep position: a review of the physiological studies in SIDS research.
J Paediatr Child Health
Current Consult Pediatrics
edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2005.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a