Study: Fans Can Prevent Infant Death Syndrome?

Researchers say that open windows and fans may reduce the risk of SIDS.

ByABC News
October 6, 2008, 4:39 PM

Oct. 06, 2008— -- With all the expensive safety products marketed to new parents -- baby-safe furniture, strollers with mosquito nets and BPA-free bottles -- researchers have found that using a simple fan in the bedroom can also save lives.

Having a fan running near a sleeping infant was associated with a 72 percent decrease in the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, researchers reported in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

"Obviously, further research needs to be done," said Betty McEntire, executive director for the American SIDS Institute in Marietta, Ga. "But I really commend these researchers because every new data we have on SIDS is a plus."

SIDS claims 2,500 babies a year in the United States. Doctors are still looking for a cause, and more ways to prevent it.

"At that time, nobody knew the fan would have such an effect," said Dr. De-Kun Li, a co-author of the study and a senior research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

"But at that time, we already knew that the sleep environment matters," said Li.

Doctors may not know what causes SIDS, but they have found that the "sleeping environment" contributes to it. Deaths from SIDS decreased by 56 percent from 1992-2003, after national "back to sleep" campaigns urged parents to put babies to sleep on their backs.

McEntire, who has worked on SIDS research since 1976, said only three simple steps have been shown to reduce SIDS: Don't smoke, don't put anything but the baby in the crib, and put the baby on its back.

To glean more information about sleeping environment and SIDS, Li and his colleagues analyzed 497 interviews with parents, 185 of whom lost a child to SIDS. The researchers found the link between fans and SIDS by crunching the numbers from the environments where babies survived, and the environments where babies were lost to SIDS.

Li said larger studies are needed to analyze the 72 percent risk reduction from fans, but that the finding fits with other well-known SIDS risk factors including whether the baby's head is covered by blankets and whether the child is co-sleeping with an adult in a bed.