Magazine article Science News

Home Apnea Checks: Caveats for Infants

Magazine article Science News

Home Apnea Checks: Caveats for Infants

Article excerpt

Home apnea checks: Caveats for infants

Monitors that track a baby's breathing patterns and heart rate have been used at home by an increasing number of parents in the past decade, largely because of fears that children with higher-than-normal levels of apnea -- periods of interrupted breathing -- are at high risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But researchers have not demonstrated a link between prolonged apnea, which is thought to occur more often among premature babies, and SIDS, and in many cases home monitoring may not be appropriate, according to a National Institutes of Health consensus panel report issued last week.

The routine use of monitors for babies with a sibling who was a SIDS victim is also not recommended by the panel.

"Home monitoring is appropriate for babies who have had a life-threatening episode [characterized by some combination of apnea, marked pallor and limpness, choking or gagging]," says panel chairman George A. Little of Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H. "But many times it's hard to tell if infants die with apnea or of apnea."

Apnea's role as a precursor of SIDS has been questioned before (SN: 9/8/84, p.152). But the 13-member panel reviewed data from the United States, England and Scandinavia and concluded that no definitive studies have been conducted on whether apnea is a risk factor for death, including SIDS.

About 2 out of 1,000 babies born in the United States die of SIDS, most of them between the ages of 2 months and 4 months. …

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