Paediatrics: sudden infant death syndrome

Manual handling ambulance  credited to SCAS

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is classified as a sudden and unexplained death of a baby where no cause is found after a detailed post-mortem. It affects more than 300 babies in the UK every year. 

It is important to remember that SIDS is not just a night-time condition - it can occur throughout any sleep period. Research has shown several factors are associated with either an increased or decreased risk of SIDS:

Whilst SIDS is relatively rare, it is important that as clinicians we are all as prepared as we can be with the Resuscitation Council (UK) guidelines on resuscitation, supporting our decision making with the National Clinical Practice Guidelines.

Attending a child death is clearly extremely traumatic for everyone involved; we know you all do these as standard, but please always remember to: 

  • attempt resuscitation unless their condition is unequivocally associated with death or there is a valid advance directive
  • communicate as much as you can with the family, and make sure they’re aware of where you’re taking their child
  • collect any information you can what happened, any significant medical history, and write down what you found when you got there
  • make a safeguarding SPOC referral and inform the police. 

Please make sure you document everything on the patient care record, and think about writing up some personal notes afterwards as you will likely be asked to complete a formal statement at a later time. 

Understandably, a child death is one of the most emotionally traumatic and challenging events that you can encounter in the ambulance service. It is important to remember that support is available to you; both in the form of clinical support at the scene (from your DLO, critical care, enhanced care teams), but also in the immediate and coming weeks (DLO/supervisor, member of the clinical team, TRIM and CIC). 

You can access the free and confidential Employee Assistance Programme for practical advice and information, referrals to services and counselling to help you get back on track; call 0800 085 1376 or visit (Username ‘EEASTlogin’, password ‘wellbeing’).

Published 6th August, 2015

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