08.07 Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

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Hypoxia – Signs and Symptoms (in Pediatrics) (Mnemonic)

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Hi guys, This is lesson is going to cover Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant who is a apparently healthy. This means that no obvious cause for the death can be found and there isn’t some kind of underlying health problem like a congenital heart malformation. Most of the time SIDS occurs during sleep and the infant is found cyanotic, apneic and pulseless. So in the last several decades the number of SIDS deaths has decreased thanks to campaigns educating caregivers on safe sleep for babies, but it is still the most common cause of death for babies 1- 12 months old. So it’s still a super important topic to be aware of and to keep providing education on.

It’s really important to be familiar with things that increase a child’s risk for dying from SIDS. Let’s read through them: Maternal smoking, both prenatally and postnatally, co-sleeping, prone sleeping, soft bedding, low birth weight & prematurity, male gender and being from American Indian or African American ethnicity.

All of these factors increase a child’s risk for SIDS. The first 4 here are modifiable risk factors so these are the important ones to pay attention to because by avoiding them a child’s risk can be reduced.

Some protective measures that can help reduce the risk of SIDS are, breastfeeding, using a pacifier, having the child sleep on their back and avoiding overheating.

If an infant is brought into the Emergency Department after a SIDS event, the first thing you want to think about is providing psychological and emotional support to the family. Remember, SIDS is sudden and unexplained. There will be a lot of confusion, disbelief and guilt. And while there will always have to be an investigation and an autopsy, it’s very important that we avoid any kind of blaming statements or questions. It’s also really important to give the parents time to grieve and say goodbye.

So, like I said, there will always have to be a thorough investigation as well as an autopsy. Essentially, abuse and neglect just have to be ruled out. The autopsy is also going to be looking for underlying medical conditions as a possible cause.

Prevention is our number 1 nursing priority when it comes to SIDS though. So, lets go over the specifics of educating on this topic!

So, first thing, every single person who is going to be caring for a baby needs to know about SIDS prevention. This means parents, grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, babysitters, everyone!

The most important thing to include in our education is that babies need to sleep on their backs! There is always going to be a family member who thinks the baby is going to choke if they sleep on their back and I’ve even seen nurses who still insist on placing a baby on their side because they are afraid the baby will aspirate. Research, does not support this concern! Babies are safer on their backs even if they spit up.

Another concern about babies always sleeping on their back is that they can get something called positional plagiocephaly, which just means that the babies head gets a flat spot on one side and this can happen if a baby is always sleeping with their head turned to a specific side. A way to help with this is to make sure babies are placed on their stomach while awake for what is called “tummy time”. This helps babies strengthen their head and neck and helps prevent those flat spots.

We also want to promote breastfeeding and pacifiers as they can be protective against SIDS.

Things we need to teach caregivers to avoid are co-sleeping, using soft bedding, overheating, smoking around the baby.

Your priority nursing concepts for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome are Oxygenation, Grief and Coping
Let’s recap your key points for this lesson. SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant, age 1-12 months, who is apparently, healthy. The caregivers usually find the baby cyanotic and not breathing. It usually happens during sleep and the peak age of occurence is 2-4 months.

Investigation and autopsy are always required.

For our nursing care, we have to prioritize giving emotional support in the midst of the investigation process. This means avoiding any blaming statements and allowing parents plenty of time to grieve and say goodbye.

Ultimately, we want to prevent SIDS from happening. For patient education topics as important as this one, always be willing to teach again and again. People rarely learn after hearing things just once, so it’s our job to be willing to be a broken record about this to help reduce the occurrence of SIDS.

That's it for our lesson on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Make sure you check out all the resources attached to this lesson. Now, go out and be your best self today. Happy Nursing!
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