Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is among the frequent causes of infant deaths estimated to be 80%. SIDS is usually unexplained and mainly affects infants who are healthy. This syndrome is common among infants aged one month to six months. Although SIDS occurs to healthy babies, babies with low birth weight and babies born prematurely are more vulnerable to the syndrome (Kail and Cavanaugh, p. 92).
Death occurring from SIDS usually arises when a baby is sleeping in a cot. Because of this reason, it is referred to as ‘cot death’ or ‘crib death’. Its diagnosis is usually made by eliminating other possible causes of death, unlike other diseases where diagnosis occurs based on individual symptoms. The diagnosis is based on factors such as a child’s medical history, and their sleeping environment. Children who die of SIDS show no sign of struggle or suffering while they were dying and no sound is produced in the process. In determining whether a child died of SIDS or other diseases, medics conduct an interview to the caregivers. First, the caregiver is expected to give a history of the diseases that the infant may have, then they are to give the condition of the baby after death. This condition include whether the baby had any foreign body ingested, the baby’s sleeping position, what was observed first and whether the skin color of the baby changed on dying. In the United States of America, it is estimated that around 2,500 infants die of SIDS every year (Surgeons and Physicians, p. 949).
Causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
The leading cause of SIDS is unknown, and experts attribute it to a combination of some factors. Some of the factors that have been proposed are certain development stages of babies, the vulnerability of the baby and environmental stresses. They believe that SIDS occurs during certain stages during the development of an infant usually during the period between one month and four months of age (Surgeons and Physicians, p. 949).
Environmental stresses may include factors such as too much heat while sleeping as a result of over dressing the baby or too many types of bedding, placing the baby in bed on the side or their stomach, and over exposure to tobacco smoke (Kail and Cavanaugh, p. 92). Another risk is getting tangled in bed due to lose covering or covering the infant’s head using thick blankets. Breath obstruction has also been given as a factor causing SIDS. This occurs when the baby’s breathing system is blocked by an external medium such as a mattress when the baby rolls over while sleeping. Another environment stress is accidental suffocation that occurs when infants share beds with siblings or with adults as well as other forms of objects that may be present in the beds such as pillows. Minor illnesses have also been suggested as a possible cause of SIDS.
Other factors that are closely related to SIDS include parents smoking during pregnancy, poor or insufficient prenatal care, too young mothers and short periods of time between on pregnancy and the next. Others include children who are brought up in poor backgrounds, multiple babies such as twins and triplets, a child being born prematurely or children being born with a low birth weight.
There have been various upcoming theories that have been developed to explain the cause of SIDS. One of the theories suggests that babies who die of SIDS suffer from insufficient serotonin in the brain stem which is the hormone which regulates the heart rate and breathing during sleep. Low level of serotonin makes these babies unable to wake up in the case of an accident during sleep such as the baby getting entangled in the bedding or rolling over. Another theory that has been developed is that SIDS may be caused by genes that are involved in the breathing system being faulty or existence of heart defects that have not been identified.
Prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
SIDS cannot be cured but can be prevented. Prevention of SIDS includes taking safety measures when putting an infant to sleep. Babies should always be put to sleep on their back. Caregivers, older siblings, and other family members should always be made aware of the dangers of putting an infant to bed on their sides or their stomach. They should further be instructed to put the baby to bed on their back to prevent SIDS (Surgeons and Physicians, p. 949). Also, an infant’s bed should have the right bedding. Soft mattress and loose sheets should be avoided completely. Research has also shown that giving a baby a pacifier when going to sleep reduces the risk of SIDS. Doctor’s advice that pacifiers open airways more hence preventing babies from going into deep sleep which may lead to SIDS.
Another way of preventing SIDS is by eliminating potential hazards such as pillows, comforters, and toys from a baby’s bed. The bumper pad should also be avoided since it can prevent baby from breathing if he /she presses the nose on them leading to death. Protecting a baby from overheating is another way of preventing SIDS. Always ensure that infants do not have hats on while sleeping, they do not have fluffy blankets, and also they should not have too many clothes. Keeping a baby’s room well ventilated also ensures the danger of SIDS is eliminated. Further, protecting a baby from second-hand cigarette smoke also helps reduce the risk of SIDS. Also, parents should avoid giving honey to infants as it causes infant botulism which is suspected to lead to SIDS.
Researchers have also come up with the conclusion that breastfeeding also prevents SIDS since cases of SIDS have been fewer among babies who are breastfed. Breastfeeding prevents respiratory infections that may increase the chances of SIDS. They have also recommended that parents should share the same room with their young ones. Studies have shown that babies who have their cribs in the same room as their parents have a lower risk of SIDS. The researchers have also warned against sharing of beds with infants since it increases the chances of a baby suffering from SIDS. Another preventive measure that can be taken to avoid SIDS is taking a baby for all vaccinations. It has been discovered that vaccinating babies reduce the risk of SIDS to a great extent since it boosts immunity and helps a child cope with environmental stressors.
Sudden infant death syndrome has many causes. Most common causes include putting a baby to bed on their stomach, overheating the baby while asleep, exposure to second-hand smoke and using poor bedding among others. SIDS is a regular killer of infants aged one year and below. In the United States, it is ranked third in the killer of infants at the rate of above 50%. SIDS has no symptoms or cure and can only be prevented. SIDS can be avoided by putting in place preventive measures while handling infants. These actions include putting the baby to bed in the right position, using the correct bedding in baby’s beds and exercising healthy habits such as avoiding smoking around babies and ventilating babies’ rooms to create a favorable environment for them.