Fans Circulate Fresh Air: 72 Percent Lower Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Kimberly Coleman-Phox, of Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, and colleagues conducted a study of 185 infants who died with a confirmed diagnosis of SIDS and compared to 312 infant controls in the same geographical area. The study report claims that infants sleeping in a room where air was ventilated with a fan had a 72 percent lower risk of SIDS than babies who slept without fans. The idea is that a fan circulates fresh air and lessens the extent to which the baby re-inhales its own exhaled breath.

The reduction in SIDS risk seemed more pronounced in adverse sleep environments. For example, fan use in warmer room temperatures was associated with a greater reduction in SIDS risk compared with cooler room temperatures. Similarly, the reduction associated with fan use was greater in infants placed in the prone or side sleep position vs supine (on the back position). Fan use was associated with a greater reduction in SIDS risk in infants who shared a bed with an individual other than their parents vs with a parent. Finally, fan use was associated with reduced SIDS risk in infants not using pacifiers but not in pacifier users.

Previous studies have shown a relationship between smoking and increased SIDS incidents. Even smoking during pregnancy has shown an increase risk of SIDS.

The study was conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and was published Monday in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

Kimberly Coleman-Phox, MPH; Roxana Odouli, MSPH; De-Kun Li, MD, PhD. Use of a Fan During Sleep and the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(10):963-968.