Parents’ nightmare, for which medicine is trying to find out the causes. What is “sudden infant death” syndrome and how do you protect your child?

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In a shocking situation that is a nightmare for any family that has had a newborn baby, doctors and researchers try to discover the causes of infant deaths simply months after they are born without apparent health causes.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby younger than one year old.

Sudden infant death syndrome is sometimes known as cot death, because infants often die in their beds during normal sleep.

Although the cause is largely unknown, it appears that SIDS is related to defects in the part of the baby’s brain that controls breathing and waking from sleep.

Researchers have discovered certain factors that may put children at greater risk than others. They also identify measures that can be taken to help protect a child from this syndrome.

Physical factors associated with SIDS

1- Brain Defects: Some babies are born with problems that make them more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome. And in many of these children, the part of the brain that controls breathing and waking up is not developed enough to function properly.

2- Low birth weight: Being born prematurely or being part of a multiple birth of twins increases the possibility that the baby’s brain is not fully developed, so it has less control over automatic processes such as breathing and heartbeat.

3- Respiratory infection: Many children who died of sudden infant death syndrome developed a cold before death, which can contribute to breathing problems that can lead to death during sleep.

Other environmental factors of a child dying in sleep

Items in a baby’s bed and sleeping position, along with a baby’s physical problems, may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Examples of these factors include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic Health and Medicine website:

* Baby sleeping on his stomach or side: Babies placed in these sleeping positions may have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs during sleep.

Sleep on a soft, fluffy surface: Lying on a soft quilt, soft mattress or waterbed can block a baby’s airway.

Sharing a bed with others: While the risk of sudden infant death syndrome may decrease if the baby sleeps in the same room with his parents, the risk increases if the child sleeps in the same bed with parents, siblings or pets.

Overheating: Feeling too hot during sleep can increase a child’s risk of sudden death syndrome.

Discover new causes of sudden infant death syndrome

The American physician Thomas Keynes, a pediatric pulmonologist, says one of the reasons why the syndrome is still so tragic and mysterious is that it is probably not caused by a single biological mechanism, but rather by a combination of factors that come together.

Previous studies, according to the Kids Health website, have indicated that low activity, or damage to the parts of the brain of children that control heartbeat, breathing and waking from sleep, in addition to some environmental factors such as soft bedding or secondhand smoke, is one of the most obvious causes of death the baby.

To test whether something is healthy in SIDS babies, new research from Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia, compared dried blood samples from a newborn heel prick test of 655 healthy babies, 26 babies who died of SIDS, and 41 babies. A baby who died of other causes.

They found that approximately nine out of 10 infants who died from SIDS had significantly lower levels of a particular enzyme, compared with infants in the other two groups.

Butylcholinesterase, abbreviated BChE, is an enzyme in the blood of children who have died from the syndrome, according to the journal eBioMedicine, which published the new study in its June 2022 issue.

How to prevent sudden baby death risk

There is no infallible way to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, but you can help your baby sleep more safely by following these tips:

* Sleeping position: Help your child to sleep on his back and not on his stomach or side during the first year of his life, while following him during the night so that he does not roll over to change position.

* Keep the crib as free of layers and cushions as possible. Use a firm mattress and avoid placing your child on thick, thin or too soft padding. Do not leave pillows, fluffy toys or stuffed animals in the crib as this may suffocate your child.

Body Temperature: To keep your baby warm, wear heavy baby sets instead of heavy blankets, and never cover your baby’s head when he sleeps.

* Get your baby to sleep in your room: Ideally, your baby should sleep with you in your room during his first months, alone in a crib or other structure designed for a baby’s sleep.

* Adult beds are not safe for babies: Baby may get trapped and suffocated between the layers of the parent’s mattress, in the space between the mattress and the bed, or the space between the mattress and the wall. A child can also suffocate if the sleeping parent accidentally turns around and closes the child’s nose or mouth, or accidentally slides bed sheets and pillows over the child’s head.

* Breastfeeding for at least six months reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Pacifier use: Sucking on a pacifier without a band or rope during nap and bedtime can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. If you are breastfeeding, wait to introduce a pacifier to your baby until he is 3 to 4 weeks old. If your child is not interested in a pacifier, do not force him, try again another day. If a pacifier falls out of your child’s mouth while he is sleeping, do not put it back in his mouth.

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