What's New in the Fight Against SIDS?

Source:  What's New in the Fight Against SIDS?    Tag:  is sids hereditary

QUESTION: What's new in the fight against SIDS?

ANSWER: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), sometimes called crib death, claims the lives of as many as 7,000 infants in the United States each year the most frequent cause of death in children between the ages of one month and one year.
It occurs most often in infants who are two to four months old, and almost never strikes after the age of one year. SIDS can afflict any family, in any social class, climate, or geographic region, but it tends to occur most often in winter, and almost always when the child is sleeping. The cause of SIDS, and how to prevent it, remain unknown.
Many researchers believe that these infants have defects in the areas of the brain that control breathing and heart rate which are too subtle to be detected.
At this point, it does not appear there is anything the parents or the doctor can do, or not do, to prevent SIDS.
The sudden, silent nature of the death suggests that the infants do not suffer, and that no one is to blame.
SIDS does not appear to be hereditary, and it is not contagious. Recently, a number of factors that suggest increased risk for SIDS have been identified.
For instance, infants born to low-income parents or who live in overcrowded housing are at higher risk. There are also prenatal risk factors associated with SIDS.
Severe maternal anemia and severe or sudden drops in blood pressure during the third trimester of pregnancy may also increase the risk to the baby.
Smoking during pregnancy is linked to impaired heart-lung response and development in the baby.
And infants of mothers who use methadone are at ten times the usual risk for SIDS. A mild respiratory tract infection in the week preceding death has been reported in about one-third of SIDS victims, particularly in males.
It also occurs more often in infants born prematurely, in children of unwed or teenage mothers, and in children who have twin or triplet siblings. Subsequent siblings of SIDS victims are at a slightly increased risk, and if a twin dies of SIDS, the surviving infant is at 20 times greater risk. Because the risk is the same for fraternal and identical twins, it is likely that the environments before and after birth, rather than genetic factors, may be responsible. SIDS is also associated with infants who have low birth weight, abnormal reflexes, who become tired when feeding, and who seem to have a general lack of vigor. Despite these findings, there is no way to identify which babies are at risk for SIDS.
Vast numbers of infants have one or more of these characteristics without becoming SIDS victims, and many SIDS victims have not had any of these problems.
About 15 percent of the autopsies of apparent SIDS victims show that a particular disease, such as an infection, rather than SIDS, was the cause of death. Parents and older children in the family need counseling immediately after a SIDS death, and often for some time afterwards.
A number of organizations provide information on SIDS, counsel parents, and help put them in touch with others who have lost a child to SIDS.

The material contained here is "FOR INFORMATION ONLY" and should not replace the counsel and advice of your personal physician.
Promptly consulting your doctor is the best path to a quick and successful resolution of any medical problem.