Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Despite No Known Cause, Parents Can Lessen Risk of SIDS

(MS) - Arguably the worst thing a parent can go through is the death of a child. What's more, an unexplained death can be even more tragic, leaving parents to place blame where it doesn't belong and changing their lives forever. Each year, roughly 2,500 unexplainable tragedies occur each year in the form of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome.

Though physicians have known of SIDS for years, there is still no explanation as to why it claims the lives of some infants and not others. Otherwise healthy infants fall victim to SIDS without any warning signs, often leaving parents in terrible situations, asking if there's anything they could have done differently. While parents of SIDS victims should never blame themselves, there are measures they can take to reduce the risk of SIDS.

· Place a child on his or her back when sleeping. Since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has suggested that all healthy infants one year of age and younger be put to sleep on their backs. Remarkably, since the AAP first made this suggestion 15 years ago, also known as the "Back to Sleep" campaign, incidences of SIDS have declined 40 percent. Sleeping on the back is known as the supine position, and despite the drastic reduction in SIDS cases since 1992, some parents remain skeptical, fearing their child might spit up and choke to death while asleep if they're sleeping in this position. However, AAP notes that, among healthy infants, the supine position does not increase the risk of choking.

(Note: Parents of infants with stomach ailments or breathing conditions should consider putting their children to sleep on their stomachs. Of course, consult a physician before making the decision.)

· Use a firm mattress for sleeping. Babies should never be put to bed on pillows, a waterbed or any other soft surface. Comforters, soft toys or pillows should also be kept out of the crib while a baby is sleeping.

· Control room temperature. If a room is too warm, parents run the risk of their child falling into too deep a sleep, making it harder to awaken if a problem arises. A general rule of thumb is to keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable to an adult wearing a short-sleeve shirt. In addition, cover a child up to the shoulders in a light blanket in lieu of a comforter.

· Avoid risks during and after pregnancy. Any number of reasons exist to avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and drug use during pregnancy, not the least of which is increasing a child's risk of SIDS. The American SIDS Institute notes that using tobacco, cocaine or heroin during pregnancy greatly increases the risk of SIDS. Infants of mothers who smoked are three times as likely to die from SIDS than infants whose mothers were smoke-free.

In addition, such precautionary measures shouldn't end once the child is born. Secondhand smoke exposure, for example, doubles an infant's risk of SIDS.

· Teen mothers should be extra cautious. Babies born to older mothers have a much greater risk of dying from SIDS than infants born to younger mothers. However, the rate of SIDS is at its highest in babies born to teenage mothers. Teenagers who already have a child should be especially careful avoiding another pregnancy, as the risk only increases with each child a teenage mother has.

· Wait between pregnancies. Mothers who allow significant time between pregnancies reduce their child's risk of SIDS. The closer two pregnancies are, the greater the risk for SIDS in the younger child.

To learn more about SIDS, visit the American SIDS Institute Web site at TF07A971

CAPTION: Having infants sleep on their backs is one step parents can take to reduce the risk of SIDS.


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