What is SIDS?
To be able to effectively educate the public about reducing the risk of SIDS, program staff must understand the risk factors for not only SIDS but risks to overall infant safety and health.
It is important to stress the distinct difference between a "risk factor" for a disease and the "cause" of a disease. A “cause” refers to something that leads to something else with some degree of certainty through a recognized series of normal or abnormal events. For example, infection with known bacteria causes some cases of meningitis by invading the brain and resulting in the immune system trying to fight back. The cause or causes of SIDS remain unknown and possible chains of events are only hypotheses or theories. Therefore, the best we can do is reduce the risk of rather than prevent SIDS.
"Risk factors" are factors that are found more frequently in a group of people with a certain problem than in a group of people without that particular problem. An expected connection between the risk factor and the problem is often not obvious. Research consistently points to certain risk factors for SIDS. Some risk factors are completely non-modifiable such as gender and age distribution but others are categorized as such because after the infant is born, there is little that can be done to change the circumstances of the birth. Modifiable factors deal with circumstances that relate to the infant health and well-being that can be changed after birth.