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Infant Car Seats May Lower Oxygen Levels

Infant Car Seats and Car Beds No Substitute for Crib, Researchers Say

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 24, 2009 -- Leaving young infants in car seats for extended periods of time may result in low oxygen levels and put them at risk for breathing problems, according to a new study.

Researchers say car seats are essential for the safe transportation of infants. But leaving an infant in an upright position for a long period of time can partially compress the chest wall, affecting airway size.

The study found that healthy 2-day-old infants placed in car seats for 60 minutes had lower average blood oxygen levels than those lying on their backs in hospital cribs.

“The use of these devices should, therefore, be restricted to protection from injury and death in traffic accidents, and they should never serve as a replacement for a crib,” write researcher Lilijana Kornhauser Cerar, MD, of University Medical Centre in Ljubjana, Slovenia, and colleagues.

Infant Car Seats Affect Oxygen Levels

In the study, published in Pediatrics, researchers measured oxygen levels in 200 healthy 2-day-old infants when placed in a hospital crib for 30 minutes and in an infant car seat and infant car bed for 60 minutes.

The results showed the average oxygen saturation level of the infants in the cribs was 97.9% compared with 96.3% in the car bed and 95.7% in the infant car seat. The average minimum oxygen saturation level was also lower in the car seat (83.6%) compared to the crib (87.4%).

In addition, the average total time the infants spent with an oxygen saturation level lower than 95% was much higher when in the car seat (23.9%) compared to the crib (6.5%).

A second study in which healthy infants were placed in each device for two hours produced similar results. Researchers say the findings confirm previous studies in premature infants and show the breathing of full-term healthy infants is also affected by car seats.

SOURCES: Cerar, L. Pediatrics, September 2009; vol 124: pp e396-e402. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.

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