Car seats can still pose shaking risk to infants
NEWBORN infants may be at risk of breathing difficulties if left in car safety seats for long periods, particularly when travelling, according to new research supported by the University of Southampton.
The study, funded by the Lullaby Trust, is the first to carry out a ‘car seat challenge’ for newborn infants in a simulated moving car seat ( right), with the full results published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Researchers from the Human Factors Research Unit at the University of Southampton’s Institute for Sound and Vibration Research designed, built and tested a motion simulator to reproduce vertical vibration, similar to that at the base of a car safety seat in a rear-facing position in the back of a small family car.
The simulator reproduced the vertical vibrations from travelling at 30mph (about 48.28kmph) on a straight urban road, without braking, acceleration or going over bumps.
Most UK hospitals require premature infants to complete the challenge before they are discharged.
Infants are then observed for breathing difficulties or changes in their -heart rate while in a car seat.
However, the test does not take into account the more upright position in a car, or the vibration of the seat when the car is moving.
This study, carried out at the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with further support from the University of Bristol, is the first to assess the effect of motion on infants and to replicate the angle of the rear seat of a small family car.
The test allowed the team to look at how the vibrations affected babies’ heart and lung functions. They discovered that both full-term and pre-term babies showed significant signs of potentially negative cardiorespiratory effects.
Dr Renu Arya, Consultant Paediatrician, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who led the research project added: “Parents should not stop using car safety seats to transport their infants. Infants must be protected in moving vehicles, and UK law requires car seats be used whenever infants travel in cars.
“However, our findings support the AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) guideline that infant car seats should not be used as a routine infant sleep environment.”
Francine Bates, chief executive of the Lullaby Trust, said the findings provided cause for concern and advised pants tokeep a watchful eye on babies travelling in a car seat.
“We recommend that parents also avoid driving long distances without a break,” she said.
“However, avoiding the risk of injury due to a road traffic accident is paramount and fitted car seats should always be used to transport babies and toddlers.
“It is clear that further research is needed to explore what more we can do to ensure babies are safe and comfortable when travelling in a car seat and we will be convening an urgent summit of leading child car seat manufacturers to take this forward.”
Other common car seat guidelines for parents include:
Limit baby’s time in the car seat. Being in a semi-upright position for a considerable length of time may place a strain on stilldeveloping spines.
Only use the car seat in the car. Babies are safest when placed on their backs. Do not leave them in the seat for prolonged periods.
Make sure you can see the baby. If you notice your baby fall asleep, you should keep an eye on the infant and the position he or she in.
Use a safe baby car seat. It’s always better to spend a little more and ensure your baby is sat safely – have a look at the car seats that have been tried and tested.
Keep an eye on the temperature. Make sure your baby doesn’t get too hot in the car seat as he or she may overheat, which is one of the possible causes of SIDS. If you notice the temperature has risen within the car, pull over as soon as possible and check how hot the baby feels. – University of Southampton Malaysia