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Karen Boe Gatlin
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Room Fans May reduce SIDS Risk

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NBC Nightly News (10/6, story 8, 0:20, Williams) reported, "There’s a new study showing that the simple act of placing a fan in the room of a newborn can cut down on the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)."

In fact, researchers at the Kaiser Permanente’s division of research in Oakland, Calif., said that "having a fan on when a baby slept reduced the risk of SIDS by 72 percent," the CBS Evening News (10/6, story 10, 0:25, Couric) added.

The work in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine "is the latest evidence to suggest that a baby’s sleep environment is a critical factor in the risk of SIDS, which is diagnosed when an infant’s sudden death cannot be explained by other factors," the New York Times (10/7, Parker-Pope) notes. Although the "study was not designed to identify why fans make a difference," the Oakland team "said they thought that by circulating air, fans lowered the risk of ‘rebreathing’ exhaled carbon dioxide."

Moreover, the "use of a fan in a room with a temperature higher than 69 degrees Fahrenheit was associated with a 94 percent decreased risk of SIDS, compared with no fan use," the Wall Street Journal (10/7, Dooren) points out. Starting in "the mid-1990s, it’s been recommended that infants be placed on their backs to sleep rather than their stomachs." That "recommendation, along with others such as sleeping on a firm mattress and avoiding soft bedding, was linked to a more than 50 percent decline in SIDS deaths from 1992 to 2003." http://tinyurl.com/4pqngr

Yet, the "new study…offers another way to make sure babies get enough air," the AP (10/7, Johnson) points out. The team "interviewed mothers of 185 infants who died from SIDS and mothers of 312 infants of similar race and age." After taking "into account other risk factors," the investigators "found that fan use was associated with a 72 percent lower risk of SIDS," and "only three percent of the babies who died had a fan on in the room during their last sleep, the mothers reported," compared to the "12 percent of the babies who lived." http://tinyurl.com/532jdr

The San Francisco Chronicle (10/6, Fernandez) http://tinyurl.com/3hhlla quoted lead investigator Dr. De-Kun Li as saying, "We didn’t see any downsides to our finding to use fans.But there are common-sense safety issues. If you have toddlers, be sure they don’t put their fingers into the fan." The San Jose Mercury News (10/7, Goldston), HealthDay (10/6, Gordon), MedPage Today (10/6, Neale), http://tinyurl.com/4qv7mb and WebMD (10/6, Boyles) http://tinyurl.com/4gtauc also covered the story.