A research team from the University of Colorado found that babies that live above 8,000 feet may have a significantly increased risk of sudden death than those living in lower regions.
Scientists believe that high altitudes may be another possible cause of the mysterious sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
SIDS has been puzzling doctors for years. It usually occurs during the baby’s sleep, there are no signs of struggle and parents are not alarmed beforehand by any strange noises. Not even an autopsy can find that there was something wrong with the infant.
Scientists learned that in Colorado the rate of unexplained death of infants living in tall mountains is two times higher than in Denver, for instance, where the babies live at a safer altitude. The new findings are consistent with a past study performed on the Austrian infants living in the Alps.
Researchers believe that they may have a valid explanation for the intriguing phenomenon. They think that the oxygen-deprived air at high altitudes may be the culprit. Other studies had also found a link between low oxygen levels and high risk of SIDS.
On the other hand, the research team couldn’t describe the exact mechanism which leads to SIDS if the infant lives in less oxygenated mountain air. Researchers also said that they didn’t find a cause and effect link between SIDS and high altitudes. They could only detect a certain relationship.
Dr. David Katz pointed out that the new research may not be fully relevant because SIDS cases recorded in Colorado’s mountain were relatively rare.
About only six infants died of SIDS in high latitudes over the course of six years. But the incidence of those deaths was high enough to make scientists wonder if there was a common cause. In lower altitude the incidence of SIDS was 0.4 deaths per 1,000 births, while in the mountains the figure jumped to 0.8.
Scientists said that they have analyzed the birth certificates and death registries of all Colorado infants born between 2007 and 2012. The team published their findings May 25 in the journal Pediatrics.
Only in the U.S., SIDS kills about 2,000 babies every year, making the syndrome the leading cause of death for infants after their first month.
Causes remain largely unknown. Pediatricians believe that SIDS may be caused by a cohort of factors including prone-position sleeping, lack of oxygen, brain function abnormalities, mothers that never cease to smoke during pregnancy and many more.
In the 1990s, a federal campaign that urged parents to place their infants to sleep on their backs significantly trimmed the number of SIDS cases.
Image Source: Baby Bargains
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