Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Overlaying death

Another death by “overlaying” in our county; I’d say tragic; but so are all infant deaths. Overlaying, as a cause of death, likely far outnumbers the number of SIDS deaths, but it is another one of the causes of death not often heard of or talked about.

Overlaying is caused by an adult (or larger child) rolling over onto an infant while they are sleeping together. The exact mechanism of death may be obstruction of breathing, circulatory impairment, or both. Closely related to overlaying is “wedging”, in which the infant becomes wedged between objects resulting in inability for the chest to move for breathing or in airway obstruction. We’ve seen too many of these as well. Considering the paucity of physical findings, the diagnosis of these causes of death depends heavily on a thorough death investigation, including death scene investigation.

In these cases the adult’s (or child’s) grief is compounded by the guilt of having contributed to the death of the infant.

Infants should not share the “family bed” (or other shared sleeping arrangements). They should sleep alone on a “firm” surface without fluffy bedding or pillows. And remember “back to sleep”.

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