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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as “crib death,” refers to the sudden and unexplained death of an infant – in particular, those younger than one year of age. The death is classified as SIDS after a formal investigation has been conducted on the circumstances at the time of death, which will include an autopsy, a review of clinical history, and an examination of the location, yet the cause of death remains unknown.

Infants who are at risk for SIDS are usually younger than six months. Prior to their deaths, they were noted to be healthy and have been feeding before going to sleep. When they are found, they are usually lifeless, with no visible signs of distress. The condition, however, is rare in neonates, as the risk increases after their first month.

SIDS is a major cause of distress for any parent or caregiver.

Known risk factors of sudden infant death syndrome

For the most part, there are no specific risk factors that predetermine an infant’s likelihood to suffer from SIDS. However, there are certain conditions that, when combined, can cause an at-risk infant to fall victim to SIDS.

  • Most cases of SIDS occur in infants who are two to four months old. In particular, cases increase during the cold season.
  • Boys are more likely to die from SIDS than girls.

Other risk factors include:

  • Women who smoke, drink, and use drugs during pregnancy and after birth
  • Poor prenatal care
  • Preterm birth or those with low birth weight
  • A family history of SIDS
  • Women who gave birth before 20
  • Infants who are exposed to tobacco smoke after birth
  • Babies who are in overheated environments

Healthcare practitioners, however, rule out other possible causes of death – such as accidents, abuse, or even undiagnosed conditions such as cardiac and metabolic disorders – before diagnosing SIDS.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies who sleep on their stomach are more likely to die from SIDS. This also includes those who sleep on their side, as they may easily roll onto the belly during sleep. Researchers posited that the position can cause a phenomenon called “rebreathing,” where an infant breathes in his own exhaled air; this becomes exacerbated if he is sleeping on a soft mattress or with stuffed toys, bedding, or a pillow near his face. If an infant is exposed to re-breathed air, the level of carbon dioxide in the body rises as oxygen levels drop. This may lead to problems in the brain, in particular in the area that controls breathing and waking during sleep.

Body systems affected by sudden infant death syndrome

There is no existing literature on the symptoms prior to SIDS.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent sudden infant death syndrome

For the most part, healthcare professionals recommend breast milk during the infant’s first year, as this may reduce the likelihood of SIDS. It also provides them with their nutritional needs and boosts their immunity from certain infectious diseases.

To reduce the risk of SIDS deaths:

  • Make sure that infants sleep on their backs on a firm surface
  • Avoid smoking, drinking, or drug use during pregnancy and after birth
  • Do not put quilts, comforters, or soft materials on the sleeping surface
  • Ensuring that infants do not sleep
  • Regulating the room temperature in the area where infants sleep
  • Avoid sharing a bed with an infant
  • Use a crib that follows U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards

Where to learn more


Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant younger than one year old.

SIDS usually affects infants younger than six months.

Preventing SIDS involves having the baby sleep on their backs and providing them with breast milk in their first year.

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