Learning About SIDS: FAQs – Why is It so Difficult to Find a Cause of SIDS?
Finding the Cause of Sudden Infant Death
Finding a cause for any disease is a long and difficult trial-and-error process. This is especially true of SIDS, where the baby seemed healthy and there are no visible warning signs. Since 1963, government and private researchers have been probing, studying and, sometimes, discarding theories about what causes SIDS and continuing to search for ways to prevent such deaths. These scientists study family background as well as the prenatal and birth history; diet; record of allergies, immunizations or illnesses; behavior and personality; sleeping habits and positions; and the effects of environment on infant health.
In their study of SIDS victims and normal infants, scientists are trying to identify differences in the heart and lung, nervous, and immune functions of healthy babies and compare those same functions in SIDS babies to determine what, if anything, makes SIDS babies different.
A great deal of current SIDS research is centered on the nervous system of SIDS infants. Some scientists think that SIDS babies may have defects in the parts of the nervous system that control breathing and heart rate. Other researchers are trying to identify disorders in infants' metabolism and determine how those disorders react to changes in an infant's body or surroundings to result in sudden death. Still other scientists are studying certain chemicals in the brain that affect the functioning of the heart, lungs and other vital organs.