still aren't sure exactly what causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS,
but some new research suggests better ventilation in a baby's sleeping area can
reduce the risk of this mysterious and lethal respiratory failure.
the past two decades, the number of SIDS deaths in the United States and Europe
has dropped dramatically. This came after researchers discovered that babies
were less likely to die when they were placed on their backs to sleep.
of the many researchers studying SIDS is Dr. De-Kun Li from the Kaiser
Permanente medical system in California. He says scientists think SIDS may be
caused when babies rebreathe, or breathe back in, the carbon dioxide that
they've just exhaled.
example, sleeping on the back decreases the chance of rebreathing," Li
says. "On the other hand, sleeping on the stomach increases chances of
rebreathing. You put a baby on the soft bed, you increase the chance of
also says that using a pacifier can decrease the chance of rebreathing because
a bulky pacifier keeps blankets from laying on a baby's face, thus preventing
the baby from rebreathing carbon dioxide trapped under the blankets.
interviewed the parents of babies who had died of SIDS. Then he interviewed the
parents of babies who had not died. He says he's found one important
difference in the sleeping environment of children who lived: many had fans in
the rooms where they were sleeping.
there was a fan in the infant's room, the infant's risk of SIDS was reduced by
72 percent compared to infant who did not have a fan of the room," Li says.
theory is that some babies have a subtle problem in their brains. These babies
don't react when they rebreathe an excess of carbon dioxide. Usually this would
provoke the baby to cough or move.
is why fans become important.
fan can help dissipate any trapped carbon dioxide around the mouth or the
baby's airway," Li says.
says the practice of placing a fan in a baby's room should be added to the list
of things parents can do to reduce the SIDS risk to their infants. His research is published in the Archives
of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.