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This study was well-conducted, but does have some limitations. As The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths suggests, if these conditions are adhered to, using a fan may not bring additional benefit. Parents who are concerned about the risk of SIDS could consider using a fan in warm rooms, but this should be used together with other steps known to reduce risk. Where did the story come from? The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal, Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

What kind of scientific study was this? The researchers were interested in investigating this because some studies have suggested that one way SIDS might occur is by babies rebreathing exhaled air which contains high levels of carbon dioxide trapped in bedding. Using medical records, the researchers identified all babies who had died from SIDS cases in 11 counties in California between May and April Mothers who spoke English or Spanish were sent letters to explain the study, and asked if they would like to participate.

Those who agreed to participate were then interviewed on the phone or in person.

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Of the eligible cases, had contactable biological mothers who agreed to participate and give a complete interview. The controls were then randomly compared to those cases with completed maternal interviews. Mothers of control infants completed interviews.

Mothers of cases completed the interview an average median of 3. All maternal interviews were conducted by people trained in SIDS grief counselling. Mothers of cases and controls were asked about possible confounding factors such as sociodemographic features, maternal prenatal medical history, and infant medical history.

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  • The researchers then looked at whether ventilation was more or less common among babies who had died of SIDS than those who had not.

    They took into account adjusted for potential confounding factors in their analyses.

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    They also looked at whether the effect of room ventilation differed in different sleep conditions e. What were the results of the study? The researchers found that cases and controls differed in certain characteristics. The mothers of cases were more likely than the mothers of controls to be smokers, to have started their prenatal care after the first three months of their pregnancy, to have had more than one child, to be unmarried, and to be under the age of The cases were more likely than controls to have been preterm births, to have had a low birth weight less than g , to have lived in a home where there was regular smoking inside the house, and to have had a fever in the 48 hours before their last sleep.

    In their last sleep, cases were more likely than controls to be placed on their sides or stomachs, to have not used a pacifier, to have slept on a soft surface, to have shared their bed with someone other than their parent, and to have ended up with bedding or clothing covering their heads. Among the cases, six had slept with a fan on in their room 3.

    There was a trend for a greater effect of fans in rooms where windows were kept closed, for infants who slept on their stomach or side, shared a bed with someone other than a parent, and who did not use a pacifier. However, these differences were not statistically significant. What interpretations did the researchers draw from these results?

    Times, Sunday Times I'd bought the pram and a cot. If you co-sleep with your baby, he should be lying beside you on a firm, flat mattress.

    The researchers concluded that fans may reduce the risk of SIDS in children who sleep in environments in which the rebreathing of exhaled air is easier.

    There are a few points to note when interpreting this study: As with all studies of this type, there may be differences between cases and controls other than the factor of interest that may be responsible for the results. There were differences between cases and controls in known risk factors for SIDS, such as smoking in the home, and the researchers attempted to control for these factors in their analyses, which increases the confidence that can be had in the results.

    However, there may still be some residual effect of these or other factors. This type of study relies on the participants recalling past situations, and these memories may not be accurate. The mothers of infants who died of SIDS were recalling events that had occurred between one and 20 months previously median 3.

    This may have lead to systematic differences in the accuracy of their recall.

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  • Ideally, the benefits of fans should be assessed in a prospective study, which would avoid these problems. If those who chose to participate differed from those who did not, this could have led to inaccurate results. However, the authors suggested this had not happened, and said that by comparing those who chose to participate to the entire eligible population using birth certificate data , they found estimates of SIDS risk with factors such as maternal age to be similar.

    If these conditions are adhered to e. The researchers did not analyse the effect of fan use according to whether the mother smoked in pregnancy, or whether there was regular smoking in the home after the birth. Compared to the controls, almost twice as many mothers of SIDS cases smoked during pregnancy, suggesting that this was an important factor.

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  • SIDS is a very rare event, but obviously one that causes extreme distress for parents and families. This study suggests another way in which the risk of SIDS may be reduced, and it will undoubtedly prompt more research into the use of fans or other forms of ventilation.

    Parents who are concerned about the risk of SIDS could consider using a fan in warm rooms, but this step should be used together with other steps known to reduce risk.

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