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Checklist May Help You Identify If Your Baby Has SIDS Risk

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WebMD Health News

Feb. 29, 2000 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) -- A health assessment questionnaire known as 'Baby Check' might help identify seriously ill babies at risk of sudden death, particularly those who are at high risk, according to a study on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the February issue of the British medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

SIDS is a term used to describe the sudden death by unknown cause of an apparently healthy infant during the first year of life.

"This paper gives clear evidence that Baby Check could be a useful tool to empower parents to make informative decisions regarding their child's health," says lead researcher Peter S. Blair, of the Royal Hospital for Children in Bristol, England.

Kevin Winn, a leading SIDS expert not affiliated with the study, tells WebMD that the study is important because it shows that "these babies are different at birth, are different after hospital discharge, and are different from normal babies in the 24 hours prior to their deaths. Those differences show up in Baby Check scores."

"The results are striking," continues Winn, a pathologist at Emory University School of Medicine and a member of the governing board of the American SIDS Institute. "We can't look at any one, two, or even three of these signs or symptoms for a definitive diagnosis, but parents and trained health care providers can use this knowledge to determine which babies might be most at risk."

The journal article describes a large scientific investigation designed to compare SIDS babies -- as well as other infants whose deaths were explained but unexpected -- with a large number of infants who did not die. The object of the study was to determine if recognizing specific signs or symptoms might have led to earlier recognition of the infants' illnesses.

The study included all sudden, unexpected deaths of infants ages 7 to 364 days during the three-year study period. There were 456 unexpected infant deaths, of which 363 were classified as SIDS.

Trained interviewers visited bereaved families within days of their baby's death and came back within two weeks to complete a detailed questionnaire -- a modified form of the Baby Check. For each of these cases, researchers also questioned the parents or caregivers of four other infants of about the same age who did not die.

The Baby Check is based on seven symptoms and 12 signs, each of which receives a score.

"We discovered that three of the 19 signs and symptoms occurred in a significantly greater proportion of infants who died of SIDS than in the living babies studied as a control group," explains Blair. "Those signs or symptoms included [infants] being drowsy most of the time when awake, infants wheezing, and infants taking less than half the normal amount of fluids in the last 24 hours before their deaths."

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