Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a condition that is characterized by the sudden and unexpected death of an infant (a baby that is less than one year old). In such cases, the cause of death cannot be found out by history, examination, or a thorough postmortem. Nearly 5 out of every 10,000 infants pass away in this manner, making it a leading cause of death in infants. The frequency of occurrence varies widely in different populations.
The condition seems to be more common in infants that are placed in prone position (on their tummy with the face downwards). For unknown reasons, the number of deaths peak at the age of 2 months. Incidences increase during the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season, when the infection is at its maximum. Surprisingly enough, most of these deaths occur between midnight and 8 am. Prematurely born children are at a greater risk of dying suddenly.
Infants in smoking households or born to socially disadvantaged parents seem to be more likely to suffer from SIDS. The condition shows male predominance with male children being one and a half times more disposed to meet this fate as compared to female children. The risk of SIDS is increased 3-5 times in siblings of infants who have died of SIDS. Therefore, parents who have already lost one child in this manner need to be very cautious about subsequent births.
There are a few precautionary measures that can help to prevent the occurrence of SIDS at least to some extent. First and foremost, always place your infant on the back and not in prone position. Avoid overheating and overdressing the child. Let your little one be comfortable all the time. The use of alarms or other monitors not recommended because these only tend to increase anxiety and do not prevent life-threatening events. Appropriate infant bedding is a must.
According to one study, the use of a fan to circulate the air around the infant is known to reduce the risk of sudden infant death. It is believed that the lack of serotonin receptors in the brainstem or the presence of a certain neuromodulator interleukin 2 in large amounts may interfere with the functioning of the cardiac and respiratory centers in the brain, leading to breathlessness and death in the infant. No link has been established between vaccination and SIDS.