Sudden Infant Death Syndrom

Sudden infant death syndrome, better known as S.I.D.S., is one of the
leading causes for the inflated infant mortality rate in this country today. It
is often misunderstood or unrecognizable. For the most part, the causes of SIDS
are unknown to the general public. This is changing, however, as public
awareness is ever increasing. Thus, the purpose of this paper will be to
explain sudden infant death syndrome and its known or suggested causes. Also,
the history of SIDS, the problems and emotional suffering that results from the
loss of a child, the toll it takes on the surviving sibling, and possible
counseling or other help that is available for parents who may have lost a child
to SIDS are such areas that will be explored. Overall I hope to achieve a
better understanding of all these suggested topics within the body of the paper.
SIDS is also commonly referred to as crib death. It is said to claim
approximately in the range of 6,000 to 7,000 babies a year within the
continental United States alone, with a slight increase each year (Bergman xi).
This would seem to be an astounding figure, but when the figure of the total
amount of babies that are born in the United States is compared to that of the
number of deaths due to SIDS, it accounts for only a small percentage. It is a
small percentage that hopefully can be reduced. And to any parents, the loss of
just one child is definitely one too many, despite of the statistics that are
currently available. During the first week of life is where most deaths that
are associated with prematurity dominate, SIDS is the leading cause of death
among infants under one year of age, according to Bergman. It ranks second only
to injuries as the cause of death in children less than fifteen years of age.
An unknown fact is that SIDS takes more lives than other more common diseases
such as leukemia, heart disease or cystic fibrosis (Bergman 24). Ironically it
was not until the middle of the 1970ís until SIDS was no longer ignored as being
a cause of death. For the most part, no research was being conducted, leaving
families and victims left to wonder why their babies died (Mandell 129). For
the family and friends of the family, who also are victims, this was definitely
a tragedy. Not knowing the cause of death had to have caused physical and
emotional distress in their lives. Self blame was something that had to exist,
even though there was nothing that most of these parents could have possibly
Today where more research in this area is needed, researchers are making
strides in combating this disease. But understanding the crucial aspects of
SIDS and how to prevent it, are still limited. The leaders in this field are
hoping to improve understanding of this disease by providing direction and
opportunities for more quality intensified research. According to L. Stanley
James, MD, chair of neonatology at Columbian Presbyterian Medical Center in New
York City, "The government is now having a rejuvenation of SIDS research, and
over the next five years, they are going to be putting in thirty to forty
million dollars." The direction will be supplied through a five year research
plan proposed by a panel of experts from The National Institute of Child and
Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland (Zylke 1565). In response to a Senate
request, there will be representatives from the fields of epidemology,
neonatology, cardiorespiratory and sleep research, neuroscience, behavioral
medicine, pathology, infectious disease, immunology and metabolism to meet an
release a report on current knowledge and research recommendations (Zylke 1565).
It was important to this group that people would have a definition of SIDS that
would be acceptable to all. The current definition of SIDS, developed in 1969,
states SIDS as being "the sudden death of any infant or young child which is
unexpected by history and in which a thorough postmortem examination fails to
demonstrate and adequate cause of death." (Bosa 5).
Much has been learned through research in the recent years. Such
examples have now been considered to be facts, one being that the peak incidence
occurs at about ten weeks of age and that it is uncommon at less than three
weeks and greater than nine months (Zylke 1566). What also is commonly known is
that death usually occurs during sleep and that most victims do not exhibit any
illnesses in any one degree at that time. It must also be important to realize
what complications might arise from a broad generalization such as