Babies living at high altitudes are at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SID), a new study says. Researchers who analyzed death registries and birth certificates from 2007 to 2012 discovered the link using maternal residential addresses for about 395,000 infants. The researchers published the findings in Pediatrics.
After controlling for infant weight, maternal age and education, cigarette smoking and other factors, and with the effect of the Back to Sleep campaign and encourage parents to lie babies on their back, the researchers discovered that infants whose homes were above 8,000 feet had twice the risk of suffering SIDS versus those who lived below 6,000 feet.
According to Dr. David F. Katz, study lead author and a cardiologist at the University of Colorado, the absolute risk remains low despite the doubling risk.
“New or expectant mothers living at high altitudes should not relocate to sea level. But this is a call for people living in high altitudes to be very vigilant about other factors that may lower SIDS risk like putting the baby on his back every time, encourage breastfeeding and no smoking,” said Dr. Amber Khanna, study senior author and a cardiologist and pediatrician at the University of Colorado.
The researchers also suggested that babies living at high altitudes could be having abnormal low oxygen levels that may lead to SIDS.
Dr. Katz said, “I’m afraid people will interpret this study as saying high altitudes are dangerous, but this association really begs for further research into why it exists.”