Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

  • Medical Author: Patrick L. Carolan, MD
  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) facts

  • Sudden infant death syndrome is defined as the sudden, unexpected death of an infant younger than 1 year of age.
  • It typically occurs associated with a period of sleep.
  • SIDS is rare during the first month of life. Risk peaks in infants 2-4 months of age and then declines.
  • SIDS is diagnosed once all recognizable causes of infant death have been ruled out, including infection, trauma, or a condition related to the heart, lungs, or central nervous system.
  • SIDS risk can be reduced by following the guidelines of the "Safe to Sleep" campaign, including placing an infant to sleep on his/her back and avoiding objects within the sleep space that may interfere with normal breathing.

What is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?

Sudden infant death syndrome (also known as SIDS) is defined as the sudden, unexpected death of an infant younger than 1 year of age. If the child's death remains unexplained after a formal investigation into the circumstances of the death (including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history), the death is then attributed to SIDS. Sudden infant death is a tragic event for any parent or caregiver.

  • SIDS is suspected when a previously healthy infant, usually younger than 6 months of age, is found dead following a period of sleep. In most cases, no sign of distress is identifiable. The baby typically feeds normally prior to going to sleep. The infant is then discovered lifeless, without pulse or respiration. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be initiated at the scene, but evidence shows a lack of beneficial effect from CPR. The cause of death remains unknown despite a careful review of the medical history, scene investigation, and autopsy.
    • SIDS is rare during the first month of life. Risk peaks in infants 2-4 months of age and then declines.
    • About 90% of SIDS deaths occur in infants younger than 6 months of age.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/9/2015
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