Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: New study findings may lead to future prevention
Could this new study bring us a step closer into finding out what really causes SIDS and help save newborns in the future?
SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome is one of the leading cause of infant deaths worldwide. It is the sudden, inexplicable death of infants before they reach the age of 1. The mysterious and tragic phenomenon has been the subject of research for decades in the quest to find out what its underlying cause really is.
Previous research has found that environmental factors such as smoking, excessive bedding and stomach sleeping, may contribute to SIDS.
The most recent study, which was conducted in the United States, claims to have found links between SIDS and serotonin abnormalities.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the brain, blood, and bowels that maintains mood balance as well as “constricting muscles, transmitting nerve impulses, and maintaining body cycles as well as overall well-being and happiness.”
1/3 of SIDS infants had high serotonin levels
According to a recent study, high serotonin levels were found in 1/3 of infants who died of SIDS.
Dr Robin Haynes, principal pathology associate at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University researcher spoke to ABC News Australia to explain his team’s findings.
"What we've found when we looked at SIDS deaths was…elevated levels of serotonin in the serum," she began. "So this is the first indication that a problem with serotonin might be contributing to SIDS. Currently there is no good, consistent marker that either shows a SIDS death at autopsy, or predicts a SIDS risk in infants.”
But could this breakthrough set researchers on their way to finding out how to predict or screen infants at risk for SIDS?
"Obviously there's more to be done,” doctor and researcher Karen Waters told ABC. "But if we can find a marker that would tell us which babies are at risk, then it gives us the possibility of intervening before they die."
Here are important guidelines parents should always keep in mind.
- Let your baby sleep on her back. This position reduces the risk of choking. Remember, too, that sleeping on their side is potentially unsafe for babies.
- Babies should sleep on a firm mattress. Remember that your little one's sleeping surface should not be too hard or too soft. Make sure the bed sheet is well fitted and doesn't crumple. Don't stuff your baby's crib with toy and pillows, which can become choking hazards.
- Breastfeeding is important. To add to its already impressive list of benefits, AAP advises breastfeeding as a way to build your child's immune system and brain function.
- Room-sharing, but avoid sleeping side-by-side. Remember: Stay close, sleep apart. Having your baby in the same room during the night reduces the risk of SIDS by 50%. But take note that sleeping in the same bed with them puts them at risk for suffocation or strangulation.
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol. Shaking off vices doesn't just help you become a better parent, it also helps protect your child from SIDS, says the AAP.
- Be aware of your little one's body temp. Studies have found links between SIDS incidence and overheating. Remember to take note of the weather before dressing your little one before bed.
- Make sure to stay healthy while pregnant. SIDS prevention can begin even before your little one is born. Eating right, exercising, and regular prenatal checkups has been known to reduce the risk of SIDS and it will also boost your unborn baby's overall health even before she leaves the womb.