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New advice on cot death
New advice on cot death
New guidelines on reducing the risk of cot death were recently published in a revised Department of Health leaflet. The rates of cot death have fallen significantly over the last ten years and have been reduced by over 70 per cent since 1991. However, there were 284 cot deaths in 1998. Cot death, also known as sudden infant death, is a condition where babies predominantly under the age of one year die without apparent cause. A national campaign originally entitled "Back to sleep" and, more recently, "Reduce the risk of cot death" continues to inform parents of the risks and how to avoid them.
The existing advice to parents is to put the baby on its back to sleep and not to let the baby become too hot as overheating can increase the risk of cot death. A smoke-free zone should be created around the baby and mothers are advised not to smoke or let a smoking partner come near them when they are pregnant. Mothers are advised not to take their babies into smoky places and anyone at home who wishes to smoke should do so outside. The baby should be placed with its head uncovered and its feet at the foot of the cot and should be immunised as there is evidence to show that this reduces the risk of cot death.
The new advice in the leaflet includes not falling asleep on a sofa with your baby as there is a risk you could roll on to it. If you are smokers, have been drinking alcohol, are very tired or taking drugs or medication that may make you sleepy do not share a bed with your baby. Instead, keep the baby's cot in your bedroom for the first six months. Duvets are not safe for babies and in summer, when it is warm, a baby may not need any bedclothes other than a sheet. It is easier to adjust for the temperature with changes of lightweight blankets. Babies should never sleep with a hot water bottle or electric blanket, next to a radiator, heater or fire or in direct sunshine. Mothers are also advised to remove the baby's outer clothing when they come indoors or enter a warm car, bus or train, even if this means waking the baby.
Urgent medical attention is needed if the baby stops breathing or goes blue, has glazed eyes and cannot be woken. Free copies of the leaflet Reduce the Risk of Cot Death are available from: Department of Health, PO Box 777, London SE1 6XH. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths may be contacted at: 14 Halkin St, London SW1X 7DP. General enquiries may be sought on 0207235 and there is a 24-hour helpline for parents on 0207235 1721.