Fans in baby's bedrooms lessens the risk of SIDS

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American researchers say using a fan in a baby's bedroom while they are asleep lessens the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The researchers from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, reached this conclusion following interviews with almost 500 mothers, some of whom had lost infants to SIDS.

In a study involving mothers of 185 children who died of SIDS and mothers of 312 infants selected at random, questions were asked about how they put their infant to sleep and covered the use of fans and pacifiers, open windows, room location, sleep surface, number and type of covers over the infant, bedding under the infant and room temperature.

It was found that being placed on the side or stomach, no pacifier use, covers found over the head, sleeping on a soft surface, and sharing a bed with a non-parent were all associated with an increased risk for SIDS - but having a fan on during sleep was associated with a 72% reduced risk of SIDS.

The fans were particularly adept at reducing this risk when used in rooms that were above 21 degrees C, as well as among infants sleeping on their sides or stomachs, sleeping with a non-parent, or not using a pacifier and in rooms with inadequate ventilation.

Between 1992 to 2003, the numbers of babies dying from SIDS decreased by 56% - a decline largely attributed to the increased use of the supine sleep position (lying on the back with head facing up) after the introduction of the "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994.

In more recent years, this decrease has plateaued and the researchers say although people should continue to be encouraged to place infants on their backs to sleep, other potentially modifiable risk factors in the sleep environment should be examined to promote further decline in the rate of SIDS.

They believe the association between room ventilation and SIDS risk is a factor that has not received sufficient attention - inadequate room ventilation might facilitate the pooling of carbon dioxide around an infant's nose and mouth, increasing the likelihood of rebreathing and the researchers say the movement of air in the room may potentially reduce the risk of SIDS.

Lead researcher Kimberly Coleman-Phox says despite the effectiveness of placing infants on their backs to sleep in lowering SIDS risk, approximately 25% of child care providers do not regularly follow this practice and this was more so with young, black or low income mother who were less educated.

They say improving the methods used to convey the importance of the supine sleep position remains paramount and the use of a fan in the room of a sleeping infant may be an easily available means of further reducing SIDS risk that can be readily accepted by care providers from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds.

The research is published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

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