The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of infection on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and to analyse whether modifiable risk factors of SIDS, prone sleeping, covered head and smoking act as effect modifiers. In a consecutive multicentre case-control study of SIDS in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, questionnaires on potential risk factors for SIDS were completed by parents of SIDS victims, and for at least two controls matched for gender, age and place of birth. All SIDS cases were verified by an autopsy. The study comprised 244 SIDS cases and 869 controls, analysed by conditional logistic regression. Significantly more cases than controls presenting symptoms of infectious diseases during the last week and/or last day were treated with antibiotics and had been seen by a physician. The finding is consistent with the hypothesis of an infectious mechanism in SIDS induced by local microorganism growth and toxin or cytokine production, and also adds further support to a possible association between infection and SIDS by loss of protective mechanisms, such as arousal. The risk of SIDS among infants with the combined presence of infectious symptoms and either of the other modifiable risk factors, prone sleeping, head covered or parental smoking, was far greater than the sum of each individual factor. These risk factors thus modify the dangerousness of infection in infancy.