Babies in car seats for more than 30 minutes could be at risk of suffocation, new study finds

PHOTO: Pixabay

PHOTO: Pixabay



A new study has found that leaving little ones in a car seat for more than 30 minutes put them at risk.

Dr Peter Fleming, a paediatrician at Bristol University in the UK, and other researchers who conducted the study found a “worrying” increase in heart and breathing rates in young babies strapped into rear-facing car seats, MailOnline reports.

In the experimental study, 40 babies were placed in a vehicle motion simulator in a car seat at the 40⁰ angle required for travelling, according to PubMed Health.

Researchers then simulated a 30-minute journey along a straight road with the tots, who were all less than two months old.

They discovered the babies’ heart and breathing rate increased, and their blood oxygen levels were lower compared with lying flat in a cot.

Read more: Devastated parents want action after 11-month-old son dies in car seat

While scientists said they “cannot be certain of the clinical significance or potential risks” as a result of the experiment, The Mirror reports the study had to be halted several times, out of concerns for the young subjects’ safety.

However, experts have advised this definitely doesn’t mean parents should not strap their little ones into car seats when travelling — but rather that they should be monitored by an adult at all times.

“There have been reports of deaths of infants who have been left in a sitting position, including in car seats — both on journeys, and when parents have used it as an alternative to a pushchair or cot for the infant to sleep in,” the authors wrote, according to MailOnline.

A larger scale investigation is now needed to determine “the significance of these results” contained in the report, PubMed says, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Archives of Disease in Children: Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Francine Bate, chief executive of the Lullaby Trust, the charity who funded the study, advised parents to keep a watchful eye on babies travelling in a car seat, and to avoid driving long distances without taking a break.

Dr Fleming advised: “If you can avoid a journey, it’s probably better to do so, restricted to no more than half an hour or so.

“But try to avoid unnecessary car journeys with young babies.”

As of May 2015, the SA National Road Traffic Act requires that all children younger than three years old be strapped into a car seat while travelling.

According to SA’s Medical Research Council (MRC), car crashes are the leading cause of injury and/or deaths among children under the age of five in South Africa.

Correctly installed car seats can reduce the risk of deaths by 70% in the infant age, and 47% to 54% in children aged one to four, Arrive Alive says.

Travelling with kids — safety tips:

  • Buy the best baby car seat you can afford. Cheap seats and even good second-hand seats may have damage that’s not obvious and won’t offer the best protection.
  • If you use a second-hand seat make sure it has all its parts and instruction pamphlet, and that it hasn’t been involved in an accident.
  • Ensure you’re using the right car seat for your child’s age, weight and height.
  • Children should use a pillow to raise them until they weigh 18,5 kg or have reached four years of age.
  • Always make sure the seat is installed correctly and can’t move more than a few centimetres from side to side. The seat should be securely held in place by the car’s seatbelt.
  • Always check the seatbelts and make sure your child is securely buckled in but still comfortable.
  • Fasten the buckle at about arm height. If you fasten it lower your child might be flung from their seat in an accident.