Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is defined as “an unspecified medical entity: the sudden and unexpected death of a reasonably healthy child, whose passing away remains uncertain following the performance of an adequate assessment of medical history, autopsy, and death scene examination”(Valdes-Dapena,1979). SIDS is one of the predominately-unsolved problems of infancy. The number of infants who die each year of SIDS is greater than the number of children who die of pneumonia, child abuse, AIDS, cancer, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy combined (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2007). Even though SIDS is not predictable or 100% preventable, there are prevention tips, guidance, and support for those that have been affected by this tragedy. The tragic loss of a child to SIDS weighs heavily on the minds of all parents. One thought that offers a little comfort to parents who have suffered such a loss is that there appears to be no suffering. In most SIDS cases, death occurs rapidly and during sleep. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), “SIDS is the prevalent cause of death during the first year of life with a rate of roughly two per every thousand births.” SIDS could possibly have more than one cause, though the final process appears to be associated in the majority of cases. Though it is unknown what causes SIDS, it is known what SIDS is not. SIDS is not contagious or caused by suffocation, or entrapment. Slight illnesses such as infections and colds, choking or vomiting are also not causes of SIDS. Research has shown that diphtheria, pertussus, and tetanus (DPT) vaccines, or further immunizations do not cause SIDS (Walker et al., 1987). Having a child properly immunized will help maintain the health of an infant and may help reduce the risk of SIDS. The National SIDS Alliance Group believes the only way to help prevent SIDS is with careful management of children in the particular age range that is affected. Researchers associated with the National SIDS Alliance Group review information surrounding babies who die of SIDS to see how these babies differ from babies who do not die from SIDS. This information includes the family’s medical history, autopsy findings, and death scene examination. The differences uncovered between deaths are referred to as risk factors. Risk factors are not causes of SIDS however, they may provide clues to what causes SIDS and why some infants are more susceptible (The SIDS Network, 2008). The National SIDS Research Center’s (NSRC) recent research shows that babies who pass away from SIDS are born under one or more circumstances, which predisposes him or her to stresses that may appear in the typical life of a child, including internal and external influences that affect the care of an infant. SIDS is more common in families where cigarette smoke is present in the home on a regular basis. Infants whose mothers smoke throughout pregnancy are more prone to become victims of SIDS. SIDS is indifferent to race or social and economic level, occurs in all types of families, and affects females more than males with a ratio of 60 to 40% (NSRC, 2006. In addition, SIDS deaths do reappear in families; the rate among siblings of babies who pass away of SIDS is four to seven times greater than that for the general population (Valdes-Dapena, 1999). Additionally, researchers associated with the National SIDS Alliance Group believe there are things parents and caregivers can do to help hinder SIDS from occurring. Parents are encouraged not to smoke during pregnancy or around infants and babies. Smoking while pregnant may lead to low birth weight and underdevelopment of the infants vital organs placing the baby at a higher risk for SIDS. Not allowing anyone else to smoke around an infant is also important because secondhand smoke increases a baby’s risk of SIDS (Walker et al, 2003). Parents and caregivers are...
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