We do not hear about Apparent Life-Threatening Event (ALTE) often but this happens oh so sudden without giving us time to prepare. With this, it is important that we know what this means so we can understand it and apparently share it to other people to prevent this from happening.

A helping hand

ALTE refers to abrupt occurrence of alarming symptoms like no breathing (also called apnea), coughing, change in color and gagging of children below one year old. As parents, our ultimate goal is to see our kids grow happy and healthy so the least that we can do is be cautious and keep ALTE at bay. ALTE is not a specific ailment. As mentioned earlier, ALTE involves group of symptoms that happen abruptly in infants and even young children.

We have to know that ALTE is not related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome no matter the similarity. There are many cases of ALTE here in Singapore so it is crucial that we are oriented. Here are some truths about ALTE:

  • Causes: The most common cause of ALTE is gastroesophageal reflux disease. Other common causes include nervous system disorders (the ones that lead to brain tumors and seizures) and infections (like meningitis). There are also less common causes like partial or complete blockage of the child’s airways, heart disease and metabolic disorders. However, according to experts, almost fifty per cent of the cases of ALTE are undetermined.

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  • Symptoms: In most cases, parents and caregivers are alarmed because of the unexpected change in the breathing of infants. When this happens, it is important that we keep calm so it will not cloud our judgement. Parents or caregivers should act immediately when they notice the infant not breathing for more than twenty seconds. If the infant’s color is changing to red, pale or blue, it is an indicator that the infant is suffering ALTE. Other symptoms include gagging and choking.
  • Diagnosis: Doctors are the only people here that can diagnose ALTE. When we bring our infants in hospitals or clinics, they will usually ask key questions. We have to answer the questions truthfully so they will know. After that, the doctors will conduct physical examination for defects and abnormalities. The physical examination is then followed by laboratory tests like liver function, spinal fluid, stool, urine, imaging tests and many more.
  • Treatment: If the cause is identified, treatment is possible. For infants who have serious problems (especially those who undergo CPR), they need to be hospitalized for monitoring. Parents or caregivers need to be trained in CPR for their infant’s safety.

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