DR. CAMPBELL: Dangers of infants napping in car seats - WNCN: News, Weather

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Dr. Campbell: New dangers of allowing infants to nap in their car seats

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Car seats are essential to saving lives in motor vehicle accidents involving cars carrying children. There are even government regulations that mandate child car safety.

Children must have either have a rear-facing car seat or a booster seat until they reach a certain weight and/or age here in North Carolina.

Over the last several years there have been reports of infants who have been left in their car seats after coming into the home having respiratory problems--there are even reports of several deaths. Many times, the reason for not moving the child from the seat once inside the house is that they are asleep and the parent doesn't want to wake them.

While it's not safe to let babies sleep for a long time in the car seat outside of the car, we want to make it clear: while in a car, it's a different story. There's no question that infant car seats save lives, in fact, researchers say may reduce car accident injuries by as much as 90 percent.

One of the most important jobs you have as a parent is keeping your child safe when riding in a vehicle. Each year, thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes. Proper use of car seats helps keep children safe.

Vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. Many of these deaths can be prevented. Buckling children in age and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats and seat belts reduces the risk of serious and fatal injuries:

  • Car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants (aged less than one year) by 71 percent; and to toddlers (aged one–to-four years) by 54 percent in passenger vehicles.  
  • Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45 percent for children aged four–to-eight years when compared with seat belt use alone. 

For older children and adults, seat belt use reduces the risk for death and serious injury by approximately half.

So what exactly are the dangers of leaving your child in their car seat once inside the home?

There have been several reported deaths in infants who have been left to sleep in a car seat when outside of the car. Infants have very large heads by proportion to the rest of the body.  When in a car seat they tend to bend forward just a bit at the neck. When they fall asleep, the muscles in the neck and throat can become more lax. Altogether, this may limit the amount of oxygen that the baby is able to obtain. In fact, there are cases of babies experiencing periods of apnea (or periods where they stop breathing) while restrained in the car seat.  This can result in permanent brain damage or even death.

Click here to read a study and here to look at child body support pillows.

Dr. Campbell appears on WNCN Today on Wednesdays at 6:15 a.m.

Copyright WNCN 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

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