It’s a parents worst nightmare, and unfortunately the cause of death for too many infants. We probably have all worried about our babies while they were sleeping at one time or another, even checking their breathing to make sure they’re ok. The culprit of those fears is SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A mysterious condition that takes little ones while they sleep.
Dr. Daniel Rubens of Seattle Children’s Hospital has been researching SIDS for 11 years, and believes he’s very close to solving the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and is currently developing ways to prevent it.
Typically when a baby can’t breathe while sleeping, they have a natural reflex that causes them to move to allow breathing again. His theory is that babies who die of SIDS have inner-ear dysfunction which halts this reflex. They don’t reposition themselves to get more air, and thus, stop breathing.
“These babies have inner-ear damage, but they can’t tell you,” Rubens told The Seattle Times. “They are too young to sit up. The baby has a problem getting air.”
One study done in Rhode Island focused on 31 babies who died of SIDS. They all scored poorly on a hearing test in their right ear. Babies whose hearing checked out fine survived. Rubens has also been testing on mice and found mice who had ear problems were at higher risk for a SIDS-like reaction as well.
More research needs to be done, but Rubens is hopeful that more thorough testing done on babies within the first 48 hours of life will lead to better preventative care for at risk infants.