A new study has yielded a surprising finding about circulating air in an infant’s room.
Keeping the air moving around with an overhead fan dramatically reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by 72 percent, researchers reported Monday.
The research, out of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, appears in the October issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Senior author Dr. De-Kun Li, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist, reports that the mothers of 185 infants who died of SIDS were compared to 312 randomly selected infants. The infants were matched by location, age and race.
What they found was the risk of SIDS was reduced by 72 percent among babies who slept in a room with a ceiling fan.
The theory is that SIDS babies breathe in carbon dioxide they’ve exhaled, but because they are so small, they cannot move from harm’s way. For some reason, still unknown the carbon dioxide is trapped in the airway.
Having a window open did not reduce the risk significantly.
"The baby's sleeping environment really matters," said study senior author Dr. De-Kun Li of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, told AP. "This seems to suggest that by improving room ventilation we can further reduce risk."
The recommendation for a ceiling fan may be added to other preventative measures such as providing a firm mattress, removing cloth crib bumpers, soft toys and pillows, and keeping infants cool.
With a world-wide education effort, the rate of SIDS has declined from 1.2 per 1,000 births in 1992 to 0.53 per 1,000 births in 2003.
Still 2,100 U.S. infants died in 2003 from SIDS and it remains the leading cause of death in infants from one month to one year. And the actual number of deaths may be under-reported because SIDS is often attributed to another cause of death.
When child-care programs receive SIDS prevention training, the rate of back sleeping was reduced from 62 to 51 percent.
According to the October issue of Pediatrics, about one in four infants are not sleeping on their backs, and 34 percent are sleeping with their parents.
The cause of SIDS remains a mystery.
Dr. Daniel Rubens of the Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center has been conducting SIDS research in Seattle, and has another theory about the cause of SIDS. His research is looking at the damage to the inner ear during birth, which may be responsible for transmitting information that regulates breathing.
Recent study findings suggest common bacterial infections might be the blame for some cases of sudden infant death syndrome.
Published in The Lancet, researchers found high levels of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria in children who died of SIDS. #