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About Electronic Monitoring For SIDS Prevention

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the most common cause of death among children between the ages one month and one year, more than traffic fatalities. While there has been great attention to the use of infant care seats positioned in the rear of the car for the prevention of infant traffic injuries and fatalities, the only measure generally employed for the prevention of SIDS is the advice and admonition to parents that young infants sleep on their backs in cribs uncluttered with mattresses, toys and blankets that might suffocate them.

However, most, nearly all, SIDS deaths could be prevented by the widespread use of electronic infant heart and breathing monitors in conjunction with the presence nearby of parents or others who are alerted by the resultant alarm and trained to revive an infant whose stoppage of breathing has been detected by the monitor.

Such monitors are of two types. The first is an FDA-approved infant apnea monitor (apnea is the medical term for not breathing) attached to the infant by electronic leads attached to the chest that detect both heart beats and respirations. These monitors are highly reliable but are expensive and are usually rented from a durable medical equipment vendor, an expense not covered by most health plans unless the infant has special risk factors, such as premature birth. The second is the infant pulse oximeter, which uses an electronic sensor attached to the foot or the hand to read the heart rate and the amount of oxygen in the blood and sounds an alarm if either drops to an abnormally low level. These monitors are relatively inexpensive, ranging from $20 to $150, such that the family can simply purchase them but most are not FDA-approved and are not as reliable or accurate as the infant apnea monitors.

The other essential requirement for SIDS prevention in addition to an infant monitor is for parents and caretakers who know how to respond when the alarm goes off. Fortunately in most cases all that is needed is to gently shake the infant to arouse them to resume breathing. But if that fails then the parents and caretakers need to know when and how to do infant CPR.

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BayCare teaches classes for parents and caretakers to familiarize them with the different types of infant monitors, how to set them up and use them, and how to respond to monitor alarms and how to perform infant CPR.