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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
An apparent life-threatening event (ALTE) means your baby suddenly stops breathing and will not respond. The event can be very frightening to the person who sees it. An ALTE may end quickly and not cause serious problems. It may be a sign of a medical problem that needs to be treated. His healthcare providers may want to observe him in the hospital to see if he has another ALTE. You will need to continue to watch for any breathing problems after you take your baby home.
Call 911 if:
- Your baby stops breathing and you cannot get him to breathe.
- Your baby's throat or mouth swells, a rash spreads over his body, or he has hives.
Seek care immediately if:
- Your baby has another ALTE.
- Your baby's skin or fingernails turn blue.
- Your baby has trouble breathing.
Contact your baby's healthcare provider if:
- You have questions or concerns about your baby's condition or care.
What to tell your baby's healthcare provider about the ALTE:
Tell him as many details about the ALTE as possible:
- When and where did the ALTE happen?
- How long did the ALTE last? Panic can make it difficult to know how long the ALTE lasted. Even a few seconds can seem like a long time. Tell the healthcare provider anything you remember about how long the ALTE lasted.
- What happened just before the ALTE? Was your baby awake or asleep? If he was awake, were his eyes open or closed?
- What position was your baby in when the ALTE happened? Did he become limp? Did his arms and legs shake? Were his eyes rolling?
- What color changes did you notice? For example, did your baby become pale or blue? Did his face turn red?
- Did your baby start breathing on his own, or did he need help? Describe what was done to make the baby breathe.
- Did your baby make any noises? For example, did he grunt or wheeze? Did he cry or whimper?
- When did your baby last breastfeed, eat, or drink formula? Did he choke or gag during the feeding? Did you see any milk or blood in his mouth or nose?
- Has your baby received any medicine? Is it possible he accidently swallowed medicine or other substance?
Manage an ALTE:
- Do not shake your baby during or after an ALTE. It is important to stay calm and not panic. Panic could lead to shaking the baby to make him breathe. This can cause shaken baby syndrome (also called abusive head trauma). The shaking can cause permanent brain damage or blindness.
- Try to get him to respond. Your baby may respond to someone rubbing his back or feet. He may respond to his name spoken loudly. If he still does not start breathing after these methods, call 911 .
- Learn infant CPR. All of your baby's caregivers may want to learn infant CPR. Your healthcare provider can give you information on classes you can take. Infant CPR is different from adult CPR. You will need to take an infant CPR course even if you already know adult CPR. Ask for more information on infant and child CPR.
Prevent an ALTE:
An ALTE happens suddenly. This makes prevention difficult, but the following can help reduce your baby's risk:
- Prevent feeding problems. Feed your baby small amounts at a time. Burp him often during a feeding. Keep him upright for a time after he finishes. Do not lay him down right after a feeding.
- Make sleep time safe. Always lay him on his back to sleep. Make sure his crib has a firm mattress.
- Do not smoke around your baby. Do not let anyone else smoke around him.
Follow up with your baby's healthcare provider as directed:
Take your baby in as soon as possible, even if he is breathing normally when you leave. The cause of his ALTE may need to be treated.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.