Welcome! We regret to inform you that the Injury Board National News Desk has been discontinued. Feel free to browse around and enjoy our previously published articles, or visit The Injury Blog Network for the latest in personal injury news.

SIDS Mystery May Be Underreported

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, September 12, 2008 2:10 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: SIDS, Infants, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Child Care, Sudden Infant Death, Staph Infection

SIDS deaths may be under reported



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ sleeping baby/ author: Paul Goyette


Fewer than 2,500 infants will die from SIDS this year and researchers are still baffled by the mystery that takes otherwise healthy babies while they sleep.

SIDS is still classified as a natural cause of death and is considered rare and even when parents follow the recommendation to remove obstacles in a crib and put babies to sleep on their backs, it still occurs.

But the actual number of deaths may be underreported because infant deaths are mislabeled.

It happened to Melissa and Rudy Haberzettl’s son Jacob.

Born in November 2006, Jacob was a healthy, full-term baby with a hearty appetite and happy attitude.

“He was such a happy baby, always looking around and cooing,” Melissa of Colorado Springs said to Parenting.com.

The couple put their baby in a in-home day care setting when he was three months old so Melissa could return to work two days a week as a physical therapist. They felt good about the setting, which was highly recommended by friends.  But baby Jacob died one afternoon, without explanation.

The American Academy of Pediatric’s Back To Sleep Campaign, launched in 1994, has been credited with cutting the SIDS rate in half and Melissa always followed the recommendation.   

But what Melissa found out what that her baby’s death was ruled the result of viral pneumonia.  “I kept asking, ‘How can a healthy baby die of pneumonia?’ but I never got a straight answer,” said Melissa.

A second doctor says the first doctor missed a perfectly obvious case of SIDS, and it may be something called “code-shifting,” that is blaming SIDS deaths on another cause.

Code shifting may be partially responsible for the drop in the number of cases.

That makes it difficult for researchers to get a good handle on whether the incidents are increasing or decreasing and whether the safe-sleep recommendations are working.

What We Do Know

Certain populations are at a higher risk of SIDS. Babies who are African-American, Native American and premature fall into that category. 

Babies who sleep on their stomachs face a bigger danger, especially if they are also sleeping on a soft surface or are exposed to second hand smoke.  The stomach-sleeping risk is thought to double back-sleeping.

Infants who begin day care before four months may be at an increased risk.

An American Academy of Pediatrics survey found about one in five of SIDS deaths occurred when the baby was in the care of someone other than a parent. One third died during the first week of childcare, and half on the very first day.

"It may be that starting a new routine interrupts the baby's sleep cycle, so that when he finally does fall asleep, he sleeps too deeply," says Dr. Rachel Moon, a professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine to Pediatrics.

And she adds that a caregiver who is not accustomed to putting an infant on his back increases the risk of SIDS. They are 18 times more likely to die of SIDS if a back sleeping infant is put to sleep on his stomach.

Italian researchers find there may be some deficit in the brain’s ability to make and use serotonin. Serotonin overproduction caused SIDS-like deaths in mice.  Serotonin helps regulate breathing and arousal. An underproduction may inhibit a baby’s ability to wake himself up in time if he cannot breath.  

After six months, even an abnormal brain stem seems to process serotonin appropriately, and that may explain why SIDS rates drop dramatically after six months.

Genetic anomalies, that have no apparent symptoms, may be a risk factor.

Babies can be tested for metabolic disorder MCADD (medium chain acyt-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency) which impairs a baby’s ability to process fatty acids.  QT can also be measured. It is an electrical disorder that causes rapid heartbeat.

And it may be that different babies die from SIDS for different reasons.

In May, the British medical publication, The Lancet, published a report that researchers found high levels of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria in children who died of SIDS.

Another lead theory on SIDS has been proposed by Dr. Daniel Rubens at the University of Washington.

He proposes that SIDS babies experience an injury to their inner ears during birth caused by the high-pressure surge of blood from the placenta during delivery.  A subgroup of hair cells in the ear, which normally maintain balance, may actually be responsible for transmitting information that regulates breathing.  

Melissa has since given birth to another son, Dylan Jacob who was tested for both genetic abnormalities, but had neither.  She continues to keep up with SIDS research and hopes no one has to go through what her family did.  # 

No Comments

Comments for this article are closed.

About the National News Desk

Our mission is to seek the complete truth and provide a full and fair account of the events and issues that surround personal safety, accident prevention, and injury recovery.  We are committed to serving the public with honesty and integrity in these efforts.

Hurt in an accident? Contact an Injury Board member

Subscribe to Blog Updates

Enter your email address if you would like to receive email notifications when comments are made on this post.

Email address


RSS Feed

Add the National News Desk to your favorite RSS reader

Add to Google Reader Add to myYahoo Add to myMSN Add to Bloglines Add to Newsgator Add to Netvibes Add to Pageflakes