Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) refers to the unexpected, unexplained death of a child less than one year old. SIDS is rare during the first month of life. It peaks at 2-4 months of age, then gradually decreases.
Experts do not know the exact cause of SIDS. Many theories exist. Potential causes include:
SIDS is more common in infants less than 6 months old. Other factors that increase your infant's chance of SIDS include:
A baby that dies of SIDS typically appears healthy. The baby may have had a cold or gastrointestinal infection in the 2 weeks prior to death. There usually are no warning signs that a baby is about to have SIDS.
All possible illnesses and causes of death must be ruled out before a diagnosis of SIDS is made. A complete investigation will take place including:
Emergency medical personnel should be called as soon as the infant is discovered not breathing. Infant CPR should be started right away. Seek medical care right away even if the baby starts breathing again. The cause of the incident should be fully evaluated. Families may need grief counseling after the death. Some parents find support groups helpful.
There is no way to predict which infants will die of SIDS. Several actions may help you lower your child's chance of SIDS:
Make sure anyone else caring for your child is also aware of these recommendations.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 11, 2013. Accessed February 18, 2013.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Nemours Kid's Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/sleep/sids.html. Updated October 2011. Accessed February 18, 2013.
10/23/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Blair P, Sidebotham P, et al. Hazardous cosleeping environments and risk factors amenable to change: case-control study of SIDS in south west England. BMJ. 2009;339:b3666.
11/14/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2011;128(5):1030-1039.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.