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Health Information SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

SIDS Research Brings New Understanding

New research and awareness offer hope

Losing someone suddenly is always devastating; it can be even more so when it’s an infant. Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is used to describe the sudden death of an infant in the first year of life that remains unexplained after a thorough clinical history, death scene investigation and postmortem examination. SIDS claims approximately 2,500 young lives in the United States every year.

Awareness Brings Change
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the National Institutes of Health, the overall SIDS rate in the United States has declined by more than 50 percent since their Back to Sleep awareness campaign began over a decade ago.

Debra E. Weese-Mayer , MD, professor of pediatrics and director of pediatric respiratory medicine at Rush University Medical Center, would like to find a way to reduce the number of deaths even further. “Many children still succumb to SIDS despite parents’ best efforts to reduce their SIDS risk,” says Weese-Mayer. “As we get a better understanding of the disease, I hope that we can put an end to these distressing and unfortunate deaths.”

Weese-Mayer’s recent research has shown a genetic connection for some SIDS deaths. Her research is helping refine the genetic profile that might place an infant at increased risk for SIDS. She was honored last year for excellence in research by the March of Dimes.

The groundbreaking research being done by Weese-Mayer and her colleagues has identified a link between genes that are associated with the body’s autonomic system and SIDS. The autonomic nervous system in involved in those body functions that are often seen as automatic or involuntary, like blood pressure control, the pumping of the heart, breathing and temperature regulation. Read “Genetic Understanding of SIDS” for more information about Weese-Mayer’s genetic research.

Reducing the Risk of SIDS
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued updated recommendations for reducing the risk of SIDS:

  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night
  • Place your baby on a firm sleep surface, such as on a safety-approved crib mattress, covered by a fitted sheet
  • Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area
  • Do not allow smoking around your baby
  • Keep your baby’s sleep area close to, but separate from, where you and others sleep
  • Do not let your baby overheat during sleep
  • Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS
  • Do not rely on home monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS
  • Reduce the chance that flat spots will develop on your baby’s head by providing “Tummy Time” when your baby is awake and someone is watching

Winter SIDS Alert
During the winter months you may feel that you need extra blankets to keep your baby warm. Weese-Mayer, however, cautions against “overbundling” babies. She stresses that parents should follow the guidelines above, keeping babies on their backs and avoiding soft bedding. Extra material in the bed can increase the risk of SIDS. This may be a factor in the increase in the number of infants who die from SIDS in the cold winter months.

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For more information about pediatric services at Rush visit ourRush Children’s Hospital home page.
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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Past Issues
Discover Rush, 2006 - Fall
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
Genetic Understanding of SIDS

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