SIDS Slightly Linked to Elevation, Study Finds

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ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Updated
Mar 2020
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Babies who live at higher elevations may be at a higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, a new study finds.

How high are we talking? Any elevation 8,000 feet or more above sea level. But if you call this height home, there’s no need to pack up just yet.

“The absolute risk [of SIDS] remains very low, and … this is in no way a call to abandon residence [in] or visits to high-altitude locations,” says study researcher Dr. David Katz, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Colorado Denver.

The ultimate takeaway is that low levels of oxygen may play a role in SIDS. Previous research shows that infants who sleep at high altitudes may have lower levels of oxygen in their blood. While oxygen still makes up 21 percent of the air at higher elevations like it does at sea level, the lower air pressure means you inhale fewer oxygen molecules with every breath.

In the US, the SIDS rate is 0.43 deaths per 1,000 live births in the country. And in Colorado — the state with the highest elevation — that rate jumps to 0.79 deaths per 1,000 lives births once you’ve ascended 8,000 feet.

Interestingly, researchers found no differences in SIDS rates between babies living at less than 6,000 feet above sea level and those living between 6,000 and 8,000 feet.

But remember, a safe environment for baby is not entirely out of your hands.

“I think it’s important to point out that parents can still focus on modifiable risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome, including putting infants on their back to sleep, avoiding excessive blankets or stuffed animals, and maintaining a no-smoking environment,” Katz says.

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