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Snohomish Health District is the local public health agency for Snohomish County in Washington state. Our news releases are a resource for current public health information for media, the public, policymakers, and other community partners.

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SIDS deaths higher among Snohomish County babies

Parents can cut risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, says Health District

SNOHOMISH COUNTY— Deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) have increased sharply in Snohomish County after decreasing for most of the past decade, say officials at Snohomish Health District. So far in 2001 there have been nine SIDS deaths, all in infants under six months of age — more SIDS deaths than in all 12 months of some recent years.

In the past five years, the number of SIDS deaths averaged six each year among Snohomish County infants. “Although the increase in 2001 is small, it appears unlikely to be due to chance and indicates a need to re-emphasize what is known about prevention of SIDS,” said M. Ward Hinds, MD, MPH, Health Officer for Snohomish Health District.

SIDS is one of the most common causes of death for children younger than one year in the United States, claiming 2,822 lives in 1998. Dr. Hinds noted that SIDS deaths are becoming less common as people become more aware of risk factors. In 1990, there were 185 SIDS deaths in Washington state, almost 30% of all infant deaths. By 1999, the number of SIDS deaths in Washington state fell to only 67 — about 17% of all infant deaths. “Risk prevention clearly makes a positive difference,” said Dr. Hinds. “Nevertheless, SIDS deaths can occur even when no known risk factors are present.”

Although what causes SIDS largely remains a mystery, two very important factors increase the risk of SIDS.

“Infants who sleep on their stomachs or are exposed to cigarette smoke run a greater risk of SIDS,” said Dr. Hinds. “Parents never should allow smoking in the home,” he continued, “and they always should put the baby to sleep on its back unless their physician advises otherwise for special medical conditions.” Dr. Hinds said a SIDS death is about three times more likely to occur when a mother smokes during pregnancy, and exposure to cigarette smoke after birth nearly doubles the risk of SIDS.

Back to Sleep.
SIDS research led to the nationwide “Back to Sleep” campaign in 1994 to place infants on their backs to sleep. In the first four years of the campaign, SIDS deaths in this country fell by nearly 40 percent.

Other risk factors.
Quilts, fluffy blankets, pillows, comforters and soft toys should not be placed around the baby. Babies should not be overdressed for sleep so that they are too warm, and the temperature in the baby’s sleep room should feel comfortable to an adult. Parents should be sure that their infant sleeps on a firm surface—sofas, sheepskin and waterbeds are not safe sleeping surfaces for infants. The same precautions apply if parents choose to sleep in the same bed with their infant. Parents who smoke or are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs should not share a bed with an infant. Some studies suggest that bed sharing may increase the risk of SIDS, particularly for very small infants.

More information about SIDS and the safety risks of bed sharing is available at www.sids.org/featuredques.html, www.nichd.nih.gov/sids/reduce_infant_risk.htm, and www.SIDSofWa.org.

Questions about SIDS can be referred to Snohomish Health District at 425.339.5230. Established in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works to improve the health of individuals, families and communities through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. Find more information about the Health District at www.snohd.org.

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