Researchers at Kaiser Permanente believe something many people already have in their homes could give added protection against SIDS.
When Berkeley mom Sandra Collins put her young son to sleep, she would often flip off the light and flip something else on: a fan.
"It's an old house it gets really warm in upstairs in the bedrooms in the summer we found the boy would sleep better because of the white noise so we'd keep it on year round," said Collins.
What she didn't know, was that she may have been taking an effective precaution against one of the most heartbreaking conditions facing a parent: sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
Although the syndrome is the leading cause of death in infants under a year old, researchers are still struggling to pinpoint its cause.
"The biological trigger probably has to do with re-breathing, which is inhaling back you exhaled carbon dioxide," said Dr. De-Kun Li from Kaiser Permanente.
Dr.De-Kun Li, a researcher with Kaiser Permanente, wanted to know if that re-breathing of carbon dioxide might be influenced by environmental factors in the child's bedroom.
After studying a pool of hundreds of infants, he found children who had a fan in their room had a 72-percent lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
"In this context, the fan, fan use is likely to reduce the chance of carbon dioxide in blood by ventilation dissipating the trapped carbon dioxide," said Dr. Li.
He says having a fan in the room is in line with other factors believed to reduce the risk of SIDS. Other precautions include:
The researchers are calling for more study, but for mothers like Sandra Collins, keeping a fan in the room is an inexpensive addition that could prove invaluable.
"It was surprising, But if felt reassuring. If there's anything I can do to increase the odds in our favor that we'll have no incidence of SIDS in our house, I'm willing to do anything," said Collins.
The information collected from the families in the study didn't ask specifically what kind of fan they had, or where it was placed in relation to the infants crib. But researchers are hoping to develop more detailed information in future studies.