Allergy and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome


Dr R. P. K. Ford, Department of Paediatrics, Community Health Services, PO Box 1475, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Background and Objective There are several sources that suggest that there is a link between allergy and sudden infant death syndrome. We endevavoured to look for evidence of an association between allergic disease and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Methods A nationwide case-control study covering a region with 78% of all births in New Zealand during 1987–90. Interviews were completed with the parents of 393 (81.0% of total) infants who died from the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and 1592 (88.4% of total) control families who were a representative sample of all hospital births in the study region.

Results Eczema was reported in 13.9% control infants compared with only 8.0% of the SIDS infants, univariate odds ratio for this in terms of risk for SIDS was 0.56 (95% confidence interval 0.37, 0.84) for infants with eczema compared with those without. This lesser risk for SIDS was unchanged when adjusted for potential confounding factors. The risk of SIDS was not associated with reported cow's milk reactions or a family history of allergic symptoms once adjustments were made for possible confounding factors. Conclusion Infants with skin disorders identified by their parents as eczema had a low risk for SIDS. Families can be reassured that atopy is not a risk factor for SIDS.