Fans may help prevent SIDS

Fans, in addition to air conditioners, are a common feature in homes come the warm weather. However, recent research indicates that a fan can also play a role in protecting an infant’s health.

Parents have been well schooled in the ways to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Infant deaths due to SIDS have been cut in half since the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) introduced its “Back to Sleep” campaign in 1994.

Regardless, one infant in every 2,000 live births succumbs to SIDS each year in the U.S., leaving researchers and medical experts — as well as parents — looking for further ways to safeguard children.

Experts hypothesize that a component of SIDS deaths is air that is laden with carbon dioxide. Placing the child on his or her back ensures that there is less chance of rebreathing the exhaled air. Now studies indicate that parents may want to go one step further.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente examined whether the use of a fan in the room where a baby sleeps can help reduce the incidence of SIDS.

They questioned mothers of 185 babies in California who died of SIDS and the mothers of 312 randomly selected “control” infants matched by county, race, ethnicity, and age to the first group.

K aiser researchers found that infants who slept in rooms ventilated by fans had a 72 percent lower risk of SIDS compared to infants who slept in bedrooms without fans.

Fans seemed to be very ef fective even for infants in high-risk environments, such as those still sleeping on their stomachs or in overheated rooms (cool, comfortable rooms are also recommended to prevent SIDS).

The theory is that fans add extra ventilation that can sweep away stale, expelled air. Ceiling fans may be the best option for circulating the air.

While the research seems promising, SIDS experts agree that the fan technique should not be used in lieu of other time-tested strategies for preventing SIDS. A smoke-free environment, a cool room, a bare crib, and a supine position for baby are essential.

It’s also recommended that baby sleep in his or her mother’s room until the infant is out of the peak risk zone of two to four months of age.

Parents to babies born during the summer should be especially mindful of keeping the sleeping environment cool, something that can be challenging when temperatures soar and humidity is high. Don’t be afraid to use the air conditioning to keep baby comfortable.

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2009-12-31 digital edition

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