Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

By | August 16, 2018

The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome commonly known as SIDS is an infant’s death within one year after birth. For such death to be considered as SIDS, its causes normally remain unexplained even after intensive investigations that include complete autopsy, scene examination as well as review of parent’s or the infant’s clinical history. Historically, the use of the term SIDS was first used in 1969 by an international work group. In 1974, SIDS was legally recognized as a public health issue, in the National Act, that was henceforth funded to be researched on in U.S. Statistically, SIDS contributes 35-55% of the death of infants after their births within a period of one year. Therefore this research will be focused on other on its causes, risk factors, clinical features, clinical tests, management and prevention, needed support and how to access them.


There is no direct and proven cause of SIDS (Carolan, 2011). However, it is perceived that the sudden deaths of infants arise from interactions of various risk factors.

Infant development- This is based on scientific hypothesis that supports a delay in the development of the infants brain nerve cells, which are necessary for the normal functioning of the lung and heart (Carolan, 2011). This is based on research examinations of brain stems of SIDS victims, which revealed delayed development of binding-nerve pathways of Serotonin. Since these are critical pathways that help an individual to respond appropriately to heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, their delayed developments implies that the infant would not be able to wake and respond to various body stimuli that may require him or her to change the sleeping position, breathing rate or pulse rate among others (Carolan, 2011).

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Re-breathing asphyxia- This condition arises when a baby sleep in the face down position (Pediatrics, 2003). During this time free air movement, which can also be prevented by gas-trapping materials, would not be there (Pediatrics, 2003). This makes the baby to re-breathe the already exhaled air full of carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, the body will not sense and initiate appropriate reflex action hence leading to suffocation (Pediatrics, 2003).

Hyperthermia- This is an increased body temperature condition that is attributed to overdressing, increase of air temperature or use of excessive coverings on the baby (NHS, 2011). Due to such temperature increase, the baby develops increased metabolic rate that leads to loss of control on breathing thus causing the death of the infant (NHS, 2011).

Clinical Features

Death cases caused by SIDS are normally sudden, unpredictable, mysterious and unpreventable (Adams, Good and Defranco, 2009). This follows no signs of illness or significant complications prior to the death of the child. This death occurs rapidly while the infant is sleeping (Adams, Good and Defranco, 2009). The baby does not cry but dies in a silent manner. Physically, the baby shows signs of well development, nourishment and good health. In addition, minor uncommon symptoms may be realized with the upper respiratory regions in the last 14 days prior to SIDS.


In the diagnosis of SIDS, comprehensive information is collected, sometimes by conducting complex forensic procedures and tests (Pediatrics, 2003). Other evident causes of SIDS are also investigated just before making the actual diagnosis of SIDS. Four major ways that helps in establishing SIDS deaths are autopsy, postmortem lab tests, review of the baby’s or family’s medical history and investigations on death scenes (Pediatrics, 2003). Postmortem lab tests are mainly employed to eliminate other death causes dehydration, presence of infections and electrolyte imbalance (Carolan, 2011). Since these tests yield no positive results that can be associated to the SIDS death cases, autopsy is used to give logical clues on the causes (Carolan, 2011). Statistically, autopsy reveals that 15%-25% of sudden deaths of infants are caused by abnormalities of the lung, heart, brain or the CNS (Central Nervous System) (Carolan, 2011). However, these findings are still regarded as supportive but not conclusive.

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In Pediatrics (2003), a thorough investigation of where the death of the infant has occurred comprises interviewing of caregivers, parents, family members as well as collection and evaluation of death-scene items. The parent, family or caregiver may be asked where the baby was found; the position the baby was found; last time the baby was checked or fed; any recent symptoms of illness and any medication the baby might have been taking. On this note, the doctor should be told whether there has been such sudden death before (Pediatrics, 2003).

SIDS Management

Personal care- Due to absence of home care for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, it is advisable to call 911 to seek emergency medical response (Hunt and Hauck, 2006). However, an instructed caregiver, bystanders of parents can just perform CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) before the arrival of paramedic.

Medical responses-Based on the infant’s life-support protocols, an emergency personnel can always initiate initial response, which include examination of airway, pulse rate, blood sugar levels; breathing and tube-placement into trachea to increase delivery of oxygen into the lung (Hunt and Hauck, 2006).


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