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Is sids genetic?

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Posted a response on 14/3/17

Red Nose

It is not easy to give a firm answer to this question as there is still so much about SIDS we do not understand. Research has shown that where a baby has died of SIDS there is an increased risk of SIDS for any subsequent baby within the same family. The reason for this is unclear, however it is thought to be mostly related to environmental conditions e.g. if a family is exposed to smoking then this risk may also affect subsequent babies. Some of the known risk factors associated with SIDS are:

- Prone sleeping (placed on tummy);
- Head and face covered;
- Exposure to cigarette smoke (during pregnancy and infancy);
- Sleeping baby in an unsafe environment (e.g. on a soft surface with loose bedding);
- Sharing a sleep surface with an adult (particularly under 3 months of age).

These risk factors form the basis of the Safe Sleeping public education program, which has seen the reduction by 80% of the incidence of SIDS in Australia.
1. Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side; 
2. Sleep baby with head and face uncovered; 
3. Keep baby smoke free before birth and after; 
4. Provide a Safe Sleeping Environment night and day; 
5. Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult care-giver for the first six to twelve months; 
6. Breastfeed baby.

Further information on Safe Sleeping is available here: https://rednose.org.au/section/safe-sleeping 

Here are a couple of other links on our web site that may be helpful:
https://rednose.org.au/section/birth-to-one-year-old .

The current research does however present some information about a possible genetic link, but is not thought to account for a significantly high incidence of SIDS in the absence of risk factors. The other area of genetics that is being researched in relation to sudden death, is to do with electrical conduction problems with the heart.

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