Alphabetic Guide to Child Care - Sudden infant death syndrome

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, sometimes referred to as SIDS and generally known as crib death , claims about 6,000 babies every year. It is the chief single cause of fatalities in infants ranging in age from one month to one year. Although there are a number of plausible theories being investigated—such as the role of swaddling, overheating of nurseries, and colds and other illnesses—the cause of SIDS remains uncertain.

In some cases, autopsies indicate a hidden infection or an unsuspected abnormality, but in 80 percent of the deaths, no obvious explanation can be found. One cause appears to be an inherited heart irregularity, and another is respiratory distress, discussed under HYALINE MEMBRANE DISEASE . Improved hospital facilities for the care of premature babies who are considered to be at higher risk than those born at full term, as well as prenatal tests and ultrasonic alarm systems that monitor breathing are expected to reduce the number of SIDS victims.

Studies suggest a correlation between soft bedding and SIDS. It is believed that infants placed facedown to sleep may gradually suffocate as carbon dioxide saturates the bedding material. As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics and several public health organizations recommend that healthy babies be placed on their backs when being put down to sleep to reduce this risk. Placing a baby on his or her side is an acceptable, though somewhat less effective, alternative. Babies should not sleep on soft or fluffy comforters or other bedding. Infants should not have soft toys or pillows in the crib with them.

Parents of infant SIDS victims often suffer intensely, apart from their natural grief, from feelings of guilt, as if they were somehow careless or negligent. They must be reassured that they could not possibly have foreseen the susceptibility of their child to this affliction and that there is therefore no way they could have averted its tragic result.

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