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ALTE and SIDS are not the same thing

ALTE means 'apparent life-threatening event'. It is generally defined as an event in an infant which is frightening to the observer, and is characterized by color change (blue or pale), decreased muscle tone (floppy), not breathing, and which requires significant intervention (vigorous shaking, mouth-to-mouth breathing, or full CPR) to revive the infant.

The term 'near-miss SIDS', and similar terms, used to be used to describe the same thing. Babies who have one or more ALTE, for whom no cause can be found, are diagnosed as having 'Apnea of Infancy'. Statistically, they have an increased risk of dying from SIDS if not treated. Usually, these infants are treated with home apnea-bradycardia monitors. The rationale for their use is that the child has already had one or more 'apnea' spells, and is likely to have more. The monitor is capable of detecting the apneas, summoning the parent or caregiver to the infant's location, so they can intervene if necessary.

ALTE and SIDS are not the same thing.

Tom Keens
Children's Hospital Los Angeles

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