Ask any new parent, particularly a first-timer, what they fear the most, and SIDS will probably be at the top of the list for most. It is one of the worst nightmares a parent can suffer, particular since no-one really knows why it happened to their particular child. It seems like such a senseless reason for a baby's life to end.
But new research has shown that there is a link between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and a possible serotonin imbalance in a baby's brain.
The study was done by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, and "has indicated that serotonin may lend clues to the cause of SIDS. During the study, Cornelius Gross, Ph.D., and others used engineered mice, with very low serotonin levels, and found that the changes in the brain could result in death. Over half of the mice used during the study, suddenly died before they were 3 months old. Before they died, many experienced erratic episodes of their heart rate dropping, and within 10 minutes their body temperature also dropped. Gross reported that the mice would either die during these episodes or afterward. While researchers caution that the exact defects in the mice are not the same as those in babies, the heart and temperature problems in the mice were similar to the problems found in the babies studied in the limited research, noted Dr. Marian Willinger, of Children's Hospital Boston.
Serotonin plays an important role in depression, anger, the regulation of body temperature, breathing, a person's disposition, arousal from sleep, sexuality, appetite, heart rate, and can cause vomiting. While the new study isn't the first to point to serotonin as a link to the cause of SIDS, thus study helps to show that researchers are on the right track for possible causes, cures and treatments.
Many parents worry their babies will die from SIDS, because it sneaks up without any warning, in many otherwise healthy children. SIDS cases have decreased over the past twenty plus years, by half, but there are still around 2,500 cases reported in the U.S. annually and many more around the world. It is the leading cause of death in babies from one month to one year. The majority of SIDS deaths occur in infants between 2 and 4 months old, and deaths increase during cold weather. Caucasians are at risk the least while African-American babies chances of dying from SIDS are double and Native American infants are almost three times as likely to die of SIDS compared to Caucasian babies. For no known reason, boys seem more likely than girls to fall victim to SIDS."
Further study will be needed to understand the serotonin connection more deeply. There is still no definitive reason for SIDS, and still no absolute way to avoid it. In many ways, it still remains mired in mystery. And is still every new parents deep dread.
In the meantime, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has a list of tips to keep your baby as safe as possible while sleeping.
Only use a firm mattress to put a baby to sleep.
Never lay a baby on a pillow, waterbed, or other soft surfaces.
Do not place blankets, comforters, stuffed toys, or pillows close to the baby when sleeping.
Maintain regular prenatal care.
Maintain regular well baby visits.
No smoking, drinking or using drugs while pregnant.
Do not expose babies to second hand smoke.
Breastfeed if possible.
Put a baby to sleep with a pacifier if at all possible, but don't force the baby to take the pacifier.
Parents avoid putting the baby to sleep in your bed.
( www.aafp.org )
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