Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Cot Death



The sudden infant death syndrome or cot death is the sudden unexpected death of an infant where the cause of death cannot be established and the infant appeared to be healthy and well before death.

It is now the most common cause of death among infants in the first year of life. It is not a new medical condition having been mentioned in the Old Testament before the time of Christ.

The reason for the sudden infant death syndrome is not known and at present it is very difficult to predict and prevent. It occurs more often in males than in females and premature babies seem to be more at risk. It is said to occur more often between the hours of midnight to 6.00am and during the winter months.

In some cases of cot death parents give a history of mild respiratory infection, poor feeding during the two months before death and a poor rate of growth. Irregular breathing especially if the gaps between breaths are over 20 seconds is thought to play a part in cot death. Research on babies with regular breathing and ‘near-miss’ SIDS is enabling us to identify those infants who are in danger of the sudden death syndrome. If such an attack has occurred, then your infant should be under the care of your doctor who can arrange for a thorough medical check-up and for continued medical supervision in the first year of life.

In addition the following are important for infants at risk :

  1. Breast feeding should be encouraged and adults should not smoke near the infant.

  2. A regular sleeping routine should be encouraged.

  3. Sedative cough mixtures should not be given, particularly those containing phenothiazine.

  4. Aeroplane travel should be avoided for the first six months of life.

  5. Immunisation for diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough should not commence until the age of 6 months.

  6. The sleeping temperature should be kept at an even, warm level both in winter and summer. Exposure to cold night air should be avoided.

  7. Baby should not sleep on its front, unless there is a medical reason for doing so.

  8. Stay close to your baby day and night. When it is sleeping you should have it near you. At night it should be with you in your bedroom, in a separate cot or bassinet.

  9. Make sure its little mouth and nose are well exposed when it is asleep.

  10. Don’t be frightened to call a doctor early if your infant is not well.

Home monitoring of breathing by the use of an electronic mattress on which the infant lies and which is hooked up to an alarm system is considered by some doctors to be a successful means of anticipating the sudden infant death syndrome and saving the infants life should it stop breathing. Your doctor will be able to advise on the availability and use of this equipment should its use be justified. Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation is the immediate treatment should you discover your infant has stopped breathing.

If your child is considered to be in danger of cot death, both parents and immediate relatives and friends should familiarise themselves with this form of resuscitation.

The Sudden Infant Death Association which can be contacted through your telephone directory can advise and give help and counseling.

- Aspirin and Young Children (Reyes Syndrome).- Autism.
- Bed Wetting or Nocturnal Enuresis. - Breast or Bottle Feeding.
- Chicken Pox (Varicella). - Childhood Immunization/Vaccination
- Convulsions in Childhood. - Croup.
- Cystic Fibrosis (CF). - Deafness in Childhood.
- Diarrhoea and Vomiting. - Downs Syndrome.
- Dyslexia. - Fever in Infants.
- German Measles (Rubella). -Heart Murmurs
-Heat Exhaustion in Children.-Hyperactivity in Childhood.
-Impetigo.-Measles.
-Meningitis.-Mumps.
-Nappy Rash.-Normal Development (Baby Care).
-Speech Development in Children-Spina Bifida.
-Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Cot Death.-Teething.
-Your Baby Won't Sleep.-Whooping Cough (Pertussis)


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