SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME
What is it?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is also known as ‘cot death’. It is the sudden
unexpected death of an apparently well baby aged from birth to two years, although
most deaths from SIDS occur during the first six months.
Why does it happen?
No definitive cause of SIDS has yet been found. A thorough investigation into the
cause of death is carried out after a sudden death. Causes found after investigation
have included an infection, a problem that the baby was born with (congenital
abnormality) or carbon monoxide poisoning.
But in more than half of cot deaths a specific cause of death is not found, even after
a post mortem examination. When the cause of death remains unexplained after
investigation, the death is registered as SIDS. A baby's death is not considered SIDS
when a specific cause is found.
It is thought that many SIDS deaths are caused by a breathing failure, but how or
why this failure occurs is not known. Possible causes include suffocation,
overheating and choking, but none of these has been proven. Further research is
taking place into the causes of SIDS.
Babies who die from SIDS die painlessly in their sleep, and there are no signs of
struggling - the baby is often found in the same position as when he or she was put
down to sleep. It usually happens when the baby is asleep in their cot, but can also
happen during any other period of sleep such as in the pram or even in a parent's
arms. Occasionally, babies are found blue and not breathing - although if they are
close to death they can be successfully resuscitated.
Certain risk factors have been identified:
• unexpected death happens more often in boy than in girl babies
it is more common in winter than in summer
• premature babies are at greater risk
those whose previous siblings have died from SIDS are also at greater risk.
Researchers have recently identified early warning signals that were more common
in babies who died from cot death. The