Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Childrens Health > Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Sudden infant death syndrome is the leading cause of death in babies one month to one year old and is a very important children’s health issue. Six to seven thousand babies dies of SIDS every year in the United States, the majority of which occur during winter months. Much research is being conducting regarding the causes of the syndrome, but there is still no conclusive evidence as to what causes this sudden and somewhat unexplainable death of seemingly healthy babies.
SIDS is diagnosed after an otherwise healthy infant dies and all other causes of death have been ruled out. SIDS deaths are typically associated with sleep, and apparently no suffering is involved. Male infants are more likely to die of SIDS than females, and it typically affects that second child in a family more often than the first.
Though SIDS is unpredictable and possibly unpreventable, there are several risk factors that may be linked to SIDS. These include poor prenatal care, low birth weight, exposure to smoking before and following birth, drinking or drug use during pregnancy and stomach sleeping.
Among these factors, stomach sleeping is receiving the most attention from researchers. Some theories claim that stomach sleeping narrows the airways and hampers breathing. This can also contribute to an infant breathing his or her own expelled air, thus causing a build-up of carbon dioxide and a drop in oxygen levels. It is hypothesized that babies who dies of SIDS may have abnormal arcuate nuclei, the part of the brain that controls breathing while asleep and also triggers one to wake up if proper breathing is not occurring. Because of the correlation between stomach sleeping and SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants under one year of age be put to sleep on their backs rather than their stomachs.
There are several other precautions that can be taken that may reduce the risk of SIDS. Placing the infant on a firm mattress to sleep rather than on a soft surface like a pillow or big blanket is recommended, as these objects can obstruct an infant’s airway while sleeping. Stuffed animals should be kept out of the crib for the same reason. Keeping the sleeping room cool is also recommended, as a warm room could cause deeper sleep, making it harder to awaken if breathing problems occur. Smoking, drinking and using drugs should be avoided during pregnancy, as risk of SIDS is tripled in infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. Secondhand smoke exposure should also be avoided, as it has been found to double the risk of SIDS.
Prenatal care is also an integral part of reducing the risk, and regular check-ups after birth also help ensure that the infant’s respiratory system is functioning properly. Though all of these precautions are advised, SIDS is still an unpredictable and silent syndrome which often leaves parents feeling helpless or at fault. Thus, parents of SIDS victims are encouraged to seek counseling from one of the many children’s health organizations that deal with the unexpected and unexplainable loss due to the syndrome.