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Cot death mattress risk

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pile of mattresses

Babies who routinely sleep on an infant mattress previously used by another child may be at increased risk of cot death, according to a study published today.

Researchers at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow believe that there may be a link between the bacteria in used mattresses and cot deaths.

Of the 131 cases of cot deaths they looked at, around half of the babies died on used mattresses.

And two-thirds of the used mattresses came from another home.

The four-year study published in this week's British Medical Journal found that routine use of an infant mattress previously used by another child was significantly associated with increased risk of sudden death syndrome, especially if the mattress was from another home.

The findings back up an earlier survey carried out by researchers at the hospital in 1997.

Dr David Tappin, consultant paediatrician at the Yorkhill NHS Trust, said: "What we would say to parents is that the most important steps to take to reduce cot death are to put babies on their back to sleep and to stop smoking during pregnancy and keep the baby smoke-free after the birth.

"Our research is not saying there is a definite risk from used mattresses but the way of avoiding a potential risk is to use new mattresses."

His advice to parents was to use a waterproof mattress and ensure it was in good condition.

In the UK, 500 babies die every year from sudden death syndrome.

Dr Tappin said he was surprised by the results of their previous survey but believed it was important to bring the findings out into the public domain to allow parents to make their own choices.

Hazel Brooke, executive director of the Scottish Cot Death Trust, also said they did not want to alarm parents with the findings.

She added: "I think that the interesting thing about the mattress data is that families are desperate to do anything they can to reduce the chances of cot deaths to their babies.

"And we are constantly getting phone calls from parents asking if there is anything more they can do.

"We feel that it would be unethical to sit on this research until five years down the line when someone else has enough data to publish.

"We feel we must say to parents at this stage that this is a potential risk."

Researchers also looked at 278 healthy infants to make comparisons for the study.

The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths advises that it does not matter what kind of cot mattress is used, or whether it is new, as long as it is clean, firm, does not sag and shows no signs of deterioration.

The charity pointed out that the new study does not say whether the used mattresses in the study met these criteria.

Dr Richard Wilson, FSID trustee and paediatrician, said: "Babies are safest sleeping on their backs on clean, firm, well-fitting mattresses.

"Mattresses with complete PVC, or removable washable covers are easiest to keep clean and there is no need for each baby to have a new mattress"

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21st June 2012, 11:37
Page updated 5th Oct 2015, 13:25
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