Red Nose Day – Lorraine Harrison

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On Friday 29 June we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Red Nose Day – the annual fundraiser for SIDS and Kids (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)… Lorraine Harrison, Education Officer at SIDS and Kids NSW, tells us about this important fundraising day … 


Tell us about SIDS and also, what is ‘Kids’?

SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is actually now referred to as SUDI – Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy. SUDI may be the result of a serious illness or a congenital problem that a baby may have been born with. The only way to find out for certain why a baby has died suddenly and unexpectedly, without an obvious prevailing reason, is to perform an autopsy, review the clinical history and thoroughly investigate the circumstances of death, including the death scene. A cause of death may be found, but when no cause is found, the death is then classified as SIDS.

‘Kids’ refers to the services we have introduced over the past 10 years, in supporting families who have experienced the death of their baby or child during pregnancy, birth, infancy and childhood. SIDS and Kids provides a range of unique and specialised services, including face to face counselling and home visiting, support groups, telephone and online forums. Services can be provided for parents, siblings, grandparents, friends and family and are provided free of charge.

Why the Red Nose? 

Red Nose Day became the first novelty fundraising event in Australia where the community was encouraged to “… do something silly for a serious cause”! In the first campaign in 1987, one million red noses were sold, raising funds and substantially increasing awareness of the cause of sudden unexpected infant death.

Here we are 25 years later, with a highly successful and well recognised ‘signature day’ in the busy Australian fundraising calendar, which contributes funds to support grieving families, educate communities and enable research into perinatal and infant death.

You have a current health program called ‘Sleep Safe, My Baby’ … what is this about?

‘Sleep Safe, My Baby’ is an evidence-based health promotion campaign developed for health professionals, childcare workers, new and expectant parents, parents and anyone who cares for babies and infants. The campaign has been developed in conjunction with researchers from all around the world. Since its inception in the early 1990s, the campaign has reduced the incidence of SIDS by 85% saving over 7,000 babies’ lives. Vigilance is still required in delivering our Safe Sleeping message to the broad community, as sadly the cause of sudden infant death syndrome remains unknown with more research into the cause still needed.

The basic message is:

1. Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side

2. Sleep baby with head and face uncovered

3. Keep baby smoke free before birth and after

4. Provide a safe sleeping environment

5. Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult care-giver for the first six to twelve months

6. Breastfeed baby if you can

To get people thinking, what are some fundraising ideas they can do on Red Nose Day? 

We encourage everyone to get involved in raising awareness of infant loss, the support families need when they experience this, and to help raise funds for SIDS and Kids to continue to offer our vital services.

Anyone can hold a fundraising function or event; for example, a morning tea, a lunchtime BBQ, a guessing game, a meat raffle, a craft workshop – the main idea is to ‘Do It In Red’ and have fun while supporting families and helping save babies’ lives.

You can also order boxes of Red Nose Day merchandise and sell – go to for these.

Why is the cause of SIDS still unknown?

SIDS is the term used when the cause of death is unknown. There has been an estimated 85% reduction in the incidence of SIDS over the last 20 years, as we have learned more about the factors that increase the risks, including tummy sleeping, smoking, covering baby’s head and face. While much has been learned about sudden unexpected infant death, research continues so that we might reduce the chances of these tragedies occurring.

Infants sleeping prone (lying on the stomach) as opposed to supine (lying on the back) are at greater risk of imminent sudden death – why?

Evidence suggests that infants who are slept prone are at greater risk of lowering their oxygen levels while sleeping and that this contributes to sudden infant death.

What sort of risk does tobacco smoke present to infants?

Babies who are exposed to tobacco smoke arouse less during sleep.

A study of babies aged 8 – 12 weeks found that babies who were exposed to tobacco smoke before birth do not arouse as readily as babies of women who did not smoke during pregnancy.

It is very important that babies can arouse readily from sleep, so they can respond by swallowing or gasping if a life-threatening event occurs (for example, if the time between breaths is really long, or there is fluid in the throat). Babies who have been exposed to tobacco smoke before birth have trouble arousing during sleep, and this is believed to contribute to sudden infant death.

More than 60 studies have shown that maternal smoking in pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of death. Smoking is one of the most important modifiable risk factors in reducing the risks of sudden infant death, with international agreement that the evidence now demonstrates a causal association.

Does genetics play a role in SIDS?

It is not yet known the complete role that genetics may or may not play in sudden infant death.

How are funds raised from Red Nose Day utilised?

SIDS and Kids organisations rely on the generosity of the general community on Red Nose Day and at other events and fundraising initiatives throughout the year to enable us to continue providing our bereavement support services, to educate the community about how to care for bereaved parents and the Sleep Safe, My Baby campaign and to support research into perinatal and infant death. All SIDS and kids Services are provided free of charge.

What do people who wish to volunteer or help need to do?

There are lots of ways to help: hold your own event; come to one of ours; or get involved in the fun of Red Nose Day – come and help sell with us! Lots of different places hold different events; last year, for example, a nursing home had a ‘Red Tie and Hat High Tea’ … go to and click on ‘I Would Like to Volunteer’, or call us on

(02) 9818 8400.

Thank you Lorraine.

This story was published in issue 64 of Manning-Great Lakes Focus

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