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SIDS Risk Linked to Living at Very High Elevation

The Short of It

A new study may reveal a link between living at a very high elevation and the risk of infant death due to SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The Lowdown

In a study published online in the journal "Pediatrics," researchers looked at 400,000 Colorado infants born between 2007 and 2012 and found that babies' SIDS risk more than doubled if they lived at an elevation of 8,000 feet or higher versus babies living at an elevation below 6,000 feet. Thinner air may be the reason. SIDS is thought to be a result of an abnormality in certain babies, who won't wake up from sleeping if they aren't getting enough oxygen.

Although these findings may inspire panic among parents who live at high elevations, lead researcher Dr. David Katz, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Aurora, says, "This is a call for further research. We wouldn't advocate that people abandon higher elevations based on this study."

In fact, even among babies living at high elevations, SIDS was still rare. There were approximately 0.8 SIDS deaths for every 1,000 infants. Moreover, very few families live at elevations of 8,000 feet or higher in the U.S.

The Upshot

Every year, about 3,500 U.S. infants die suddenly, from no obvious cause, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SIDS is still not fully understood. But Dr. Katz says the most important thing parents can do to decrease the risk to their babies is to practice safe sleep. That includes:

  • Placing baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Removing soft bedding and toys from the crib.
  • Using a firm mattress.

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