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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is defined as an unexpected infant death (under 1 year of age) that cannot be otherwise explained by an autopsy, death scene investigation, and thorough medical history. SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that it can exist only once all other possible causes of death have been ruled out; hence, its defining feature is that death results from the unknown. Since the mid-1900s, sudden infant death has been an increasingly important subject of medical research and pediatric advice literature, a controversial public topic of debate, and a prominent source of fear and anxiety among American parents. This entry summarizes the medical and social history of SIDS and briefly explores contemporary understandings and statistical trends related to SIDS.

The History of ...
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