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Risk of SIDS Dependent on Infants’ Age

Update Date: Jul 14, 2014 10:59 AM EDT

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) occurs when infants die in their sleep due to unexplained reasons. Over the years, researchers have been trying to identify risk factors and causes of SIDS so that parents and caretakers can take preventive measures. In a new study, researchers found that an infant's age can greatly affect his/her risk of SIDS.

For this study, the researchers examined 8,207 unexplained cases of infant deaths that occurred in 24 states from 2004 to 2012. Around 70 percent of the deaths occurred in infants that were younger than three-months-old. For this young age group, the researchers found that the majority of them, at about 75 percent, died due to bed-sharing. Bed-sharing accounted for around 60 percent of unexplained deaths for infants aged four-months and older.

"This study is the first to show that the risks during sleep may be different for infants of different ages," said lead author Dr. Rachel Moon, associate chief of Children's National Medical Center's division of general pediatrics and community health, in Washington, D.C reported by Philly. "Parents of infants under 4 months of age should be aware that bed-sharing is a huge risk factor."

When the researchers examined cases that occurred in older infants, they found that sleeping on one's stomach was a major risk factor of death. Roughly 18 percent of older infants who died had turned from their backs to sleep on their stomachs. The researchers concluded that risk factors vary depending on the infant's age. Parents must take preventive measures at different developmental stages in order to reduce their infant's risk of SIDS.

"That's why it's all the more imperative to keep your sleep environment pristine," study's co-author Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, a pediatrician at Children's Mercy Hospital in Missouri, said according to FOX News.

The researchers added that when infants are awake, parents should put them on their tummies so that they can develop muscles. These muscles can help infants roll back and forth so that when they do end up on their stomachs, they can move their heads to the side and prevent suffocation.

"Parents often forget that as the infant gets older and nothing bad has happened," Moon said. "We need to re-emphasize that the sleep environment needs to be clear even as the infant gets older, particularly as the infant becomes more mobile."

The study, "Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants," was published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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