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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
If you’re concerned that your child or grandchild is in danger of SIDS, it will comfort you to know that Boston Children’s Hospital has a tremendous amount of experience counseling parents on techniques to greatly reduce the risk.
What is SIDS?
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. A diagnosis of SIDS is made if the baby’s death remains unexplained even after a death scene investigation, an autopsy and a review of the clinical history.
SIDS is part of a larger category of unexpected (as opposed to unexplained) infant deaths called SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy). Babies who die suddenly but whose causes of death are later explained (infection, brain abnormality, cardiac dysfunction, etc.) also fall into this SUDI category.
Who is at risk for SIDS?
SIDS is a mysterious syndrome, since by its very definition the cause cannot be determined. But certain risk factors do exist.
About 2,300 babies in the United States die of SIDS each year. Some babies are more at risk than others. For example, SIDS is more likely to affect a baby who is between 1 and 4 months old, it is more common in boys than girls, and most deaths occur during the fall, winter and early spring months.
Factors that may place a baby at higher risk of dying from SIDS include the following:
Are there any theories about why SIDS occurs?
While the cause of SIDS is unknown, many clinicians and researchers believe that SIDS is associated with problems in the ability of the baby to arouse from sleep, to detect low levels of oxygen or a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. When babies sleep face down, they may re-breathe exhaled carbon dioxide. Normally, rising carbon dioxide levels activate nerve cells in the brainstem, which stimulate the brain's respiratory and arousal centers. The baby then wakes up, turns his head and breathes faster to get more oxygen. SIDS babies, however, may fail to rouse.
The “Triple-Risk Model” for SIDS has been proposed to explain how SIDS occurs. The model holds that SIDS occurs when three conditions exist simultaneously:
How is SIDS diagnosed?
A baby is determined to have died from SIDS if no cause of death can be identified following a death scene investigation, an autopsy and a review of the clinical history. Thus, SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion: SIDS as a cause of death is determined only when all other causes have been excluded.
Can SIDS be prevented?
Because researchers at Children’s and elsewhere are still researching the possible causes of SIDS, there is currently no way to “prevent” the syndrome from occurring. But you can vastly reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS by:
SIDS is a mysterious syndrome, and by its very definition the cause cannot be determined. Children’s researchers have uncovered strong evidence that SIDS has a biological basis, and are continuing to work towards determining the underlying causes and identifying at-risk babies.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”