Unknown cause of sudden infant death

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Unknown cause of sudden infant death

All parents are concerned about the thought that their newborn may die of sudden child death. So far, research has not been able to explain how the unexpected death of infants occurs. But parents can reduce the risk if they take certain factors into account.

Sudden Infant Death Most Common Cause Deaths from sudden infant death have been decreasing continuously for several years. First of all, that's good news. Today, however, around 250 babies still die of sudden child death every year. A good 20 years ago there were 1300 children a year. Accordingly, scientific studies were able to significantly reduce the death rate. However, sudden death is still the leading cause of death in babies. 80 percent of deaths occur in the first six months after birth. For comparison: only five percent of explainable child death occurs after the first year of life.

Despite the successes recorded, medicine cannot yet give a clear explanation of why a toddler suddenly dies. Parents and doctors find themselves almost powerlessly exposed to this terrible phenomenon. Because there are no recognizable early signs or symptoms that could indicate a death event. Parents can only look out for risks and try to switch them off if possible. And yet the danger is not averted, as Prof. Dr. Gerhard Jorch from Magdeburg University Hospital explained. Because the "vast majority of cases of sudden child death is such that the parents did everything right". And yet the child then died. For years, Jorch has been one of the leading scientists in the research area "sudden child death". For example, the researcher received the Meinhard von Pfaundler Prevention Award from the Children's Health Foundation in 2004 for his successful work.

Congenital risk factors suspected Above all, parents want to know whether there are congenital factors that increase the risk. Unfortunately, hardly any of those are known. What you know is often only known from the statistical data. According to this, boys are affected slightly more often than girls (60 percent). In addition, premature babies and babies from very young mothers have a slightly higher risk. There is also an increased risk if the sudden child death has already happened in a family. Some researchers have already discovered genes that are responsible for the disturbed respiratory reflexes and lack of oxygen, Jorch explained. In the future, the first research work could start to underpin the still very theoretical substructure. Because at the moment "these aspects have a purely theoretical meaning," the expert told Focus Online. Most other explanatory models are theoretical for the “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)” - as the sudden child death is called in medical circles. A majority of the researchers believe that the insufficient oxygen supply is triggered by an impaired blood flow to the brain stem. Damage to the artery in the brain can be seen in the ultrasound that was given. But such an explanatory pattern does not cover the full range of all factors, as Jorch warns. "If an infant dies unexpectedly and with no apparent cause, several factors always play together unhappily." It would therefore be useless to research one of the possible causes in a time-consuming and time-consuming manner.

Prevention in practice more important than researching risk factors The pediatrician is more in favor of further development of prevention in order to be able to optimally protect the child in practice. A positive preventive approach is the so-called "pacifier theory". Because the pacifier has proven to be practical pension protection. This is especially true for children who are not breastfeeding, explains the doctor. It is unclear why children are less likely to die suddenly if they pacify regularly. It is likely that babies with a pacifier mostly sleep in the back and not in the prone position. "In the supine position, the pacifier is easy for parents and children to use, but not on the tummy." Midwives often teach mothers that their children should not sleep prone. In principle, that is correct. Nevertheless, children should definitely learn to lie prone. Because the parents' eyes are not always on the children. Therefore, the prone position should be studied while awake. “Parents should practice this with the child awake. There have been cases of SIDS, when a baby turned on his stomach for the first time in his life at night and then lay on his face completely helpless.

Child vaccinations may increase the risk
Critics in particular accuse child vaccinations of complicity in the deaths of infants. However, this possible connection has not yet been proven. "There is no direct cause-effect effect, as recent studies have shown." The researcher does not want to question vaccination. But he can very well imagine that fever as a result of vaccination can act as a trigger. Pediatricians should therefore advise parents that fever may occur in the next few days or weeks after the vaccination. The parents should then keep a particularly watchful eye on their child, says the pediatrician Jorch.

Biggest risk around the 100th day of life With SIDS, the children suffocate in their sleep. The babies don't wake up when they should be coughing, they don't wake up when they have to spit. And they don't wake up when they run out of air. The actually automated reflex for unconscious breathing suddenly starts. The babies just stop breathing. Misfortune often occurred because they slept on their stomach. Sudden death occurs most frequently between the ages of 8 and 16 weeks. Experts suspect that many children accidentally put their heads under a blanket or pillow. The child can no longer free himself from this situation and suffocate. The risk level reaches its peak around the 100th day of life. This is exactly the point in time at which the baby switches from pure reflex movements to voluntary movements, as the researcher explains. The babies can then reach for the cozy blanket, but do not let go of it afterwards. This situation makes the cot a life-threatening danger. For this reason, cuddly toys and pillows should have no place in the cot. The social pedagogue Dipl. Gritli Bertram therefore recommends all parents to let their baby sleep in a children's sleeping bag without a pillow. "The baby should be kept on his back all the time. Only when the child is awake should he be placed in the prone position. Parents shouldn't let their child out of their sight, ”says the teacher. A few decades ago, the instruction was that the children should always be put on their stomach. This supposedly forms the back of the head and promotes the well-being of the child. However, GDR scientists found in the 1980s that, from a statistical point of view, abdominal sleep increased the child death rate. Since then, the instruction in the former GDR was to only lay children on their backs. In fact, the death rate dropped after that. In Germany, this knowledge only became established in the 1990s. In addition, it was now known that sleeping bags also reduce the risk because they cannot be pulled over your head. Breastfeeding with breast milk should also have a positive effect, because it strengthens the child's immune system and reduces the risk of febrile seizures. (sb)

Also read:
Every third baby is born by Caesarean section
Have coughs examined in babies
Tips for successful breastfeeding
Hundreds of thousands of children have back pain

Image: Manuel Bendig / pixelio.de

Author and source information

Video: Sudden Infant Death SIDS Tied to Brain Chemical


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