May 14, 2008

Sitting Time May Increase Sudden Infant Death

Leaving infants less that one month old in a sitting position for a long period of time may place them at an increased risk for sudden infant death, according to Dr. Aurore Cote.

Deaths among infants in a sitting position accounted for about 3 percent of the infant deaths reviewed as part of a study by Cote, from McGill University Health Center, and colleagues.

"Caution should be used when placing younger infants in car seats and similar sitting devices, whether the infants have been born prematurely or not," Cote and colleagues report in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Colte said based on other studies that have looked at the level of oxygen in the blood of infants in a sitting position, as compared to being in bed, "I would say one hour at a time should be the maximum."

A 10-year review, through December 2000, of all sudden unexplained deaths between birth and 1 year of age occurring in the province of Quebec formed the basis of Colte's study. Medical and Coroners' records were used to identify 99 explained deaths, caused by heart-related problems or infections as well as 409 unexplained deaths.

Most deaths occurred while infants were lying down, but 10 infants in the unexplained death group and 7 in the explained death group died while sitting in a car seat or other sitting device.

Researchers accounted for age at death and adjusted for prematurity and found that 9.4 percent of the infants who died at less than 1 month of age were in a sitting position at the time of death. By contrast, just 2.4 percent of older infants died while in a sitting position.

Cote noted that the presence of airway problems might have contributed to the death of the infants in a sitting position, after reviewing individual cases of young infant deaths and the time spent sitting up.

According to the researchers, recommendations concerning traveling in car seats and the use of infant seats should consider the findings of this study.


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McGill University Health Center

Archives of Disease in Childhood