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Fan use linked to lower risk of SIDS

October 6, 2008 |  3:09 pm

Sids1Having a fan in the room where an infant is sleeping may help decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, according to research published today.

SIDS deaths have fallen almost 65% from 1992 to 2003 as research has yielded clues on what causes the tragic deaths of seemingly healthy newborns. One of the best prevention measures, studies have shown, is placing babies on their backs to sleep. But SIDS cases still occur, and so have efforts to understand how to prevent them.

The study today in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine analyzed interviews of mothers from 185 infants who died from SIDS and the mothers of 312 infants who were randomly selected as comparisons. The babies who died from SIDS were more likely to have been placed on their stomachs or sides to sleep, did not use a pacifier, were found with bedding or clothing covering their heads, slept on a soft surface or shared a bed with someone other than a parent -- all known risk factors for SIDS. But the study also found that having a fan on during sleep was associated with a 72% decreased risk in SIDS compared to sleeping in a room without a fan. Fan use in warmer rooms (above 69 degrees Fahrenheit) was associated with a 94% decreased risk of SIDS compared with no fan use. Fan use also decreased the risk of SIDS in infants who slept on their stomachs or sides.

Use of a fan may prevent infants from re-breathing exhaled air, which contains carbon dioxide, or from overheating, said the authors of the study, from Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland. Putting infants to sleep on their backs appears to offer the strongest protection against SIDS. But, they added: "Use of a fan in the room of a sleeping infant may be an easily available means of further reducing SIDS risk than can be readily accepted by care providers from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds."

The study needs to be confirmed by further research, said Marian Willinger, special assistant for SIDS Research at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

For more information on preventing SIDS, see the web pages for the National Sudden Infant Death Resource Center, First Candle, and the American SIDS Institute.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Damir Sagolj / Reuters