SIDS: A Silent Killer

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby less than 1 year old. SIDS is sometimes called crib death because it usually occurs when babies are asleep in their cribs. SIDS is a silent killer.

Reduce the risk of SIDS by laying your baby on his or her back at bedtime.

About 2,300 babies die of SIDS each year in the US. It is the most common cause of death in babies between the ages of 2 weeks to 1 year. It most often occurs in babies between 2 months and 4 months old. It occurs more often in African American and Native American babies than in Caucasian babies and is slightly more common in boys than in girls.

SIDS doesn’t have any recognizable symptoms. It happens to babies that appear healthy. A diagnosis of SIDS is one of exclusion. The diagnosis is generally made if no clear cause of death can be determined after a thorough investigation that includes an autopsy.

There are certain factors that increase a baby’s risk of dying from SIDS. The most important is laying down a baby to sleep on the stomach or side rather than the back. Other factors that increase risk include:

• A family history of SIDS.
• Being overheated with blankets or a high room temperature.
• Co-sleeping (sharing a bed with a parent or caretaker).
• Having a mattress that’s too soft.
• Having soft objects in the crib, such as stuffed toys, bumper pads, quilts and pillows
• Being born prematurely or having a low birth weight.
• A mother younger than 20 years old.
• A mother who received inadequate or no prenatal care.
• A mother who smoked, drank alcohol or took drugs during pregnancy.
• Exposure to secondhand smoke.

The cause of SIDS is unknown but researchers are studying certain theories. Many believe that SIDS is related to a baby’s inability to arouse from sleep when not getting sufficient oxygen from breathing. As a result, carbon dioxide builds up in the bloodstream. A high level of carbon dioxide can lead to death. Some researchers believe this occurs because the center in the baby’s brain that controls arousal is not fully developed.

The proposed “Triple-Risk Model” suggests that three factors combine to cause SIDS. This theory holds that SIDS occurs when an underlying brain abnormality and a triggering event, such as a poor sleep position (sleeping on the stomach), occur during a vulnerable stage in a baby’s development, essentially the first six months of life.

It may be frightening to know that there’re no symptoms to be alert for and no clear cause of SIDS, so there’s no way to prevent it from happening. But there are some tips for reducing a baby’s risk for SIDS. These include:

• Lay your baby on his or her back when putting him or her down for a nap and at night.
• Avoid overheating your baby. Don’t tightly swaddle your baby in a blanket and keep the room temperature at a level that’s comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.
• Don’t co-sleep with your baby or let your baby sleep with other children or adults.
• Choose a firm, safety-approved crib mattress and use a fitted sheet.
• Keep toys, bumper pads, fluffy blankets, quilts and pillows out of the crib when the baby is sleeping.
• Don’t smoke, drink or take drugs while pregnant and if breastfeeding.
• Get proper prenatal care during pregnancy.
• Don’t let anyone smoke around your baby.
• Set up your baby’s sleep area close to you but separate from your bedroom or those of other children.

In addition, make sure everyone who cares for your baby – including grandparents and other relatives, babysitters and friends – knows these recommendations. And consider sharing these tips with other parents and caregivers of infants.

Patti DiPanfilo

Authors:

Florida Health Care News

About Florida Health Care News

ifoundMYdoctor.com is the online presence of Florida Health Care News, Inc., the oldest and largest family of health care information publications in the state. Since 1987, Florida Health Care News has been a highly respected, widely read and trusted source of health care information for readers throughout much of Florida.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*