Increased ambient temperature is directly linked to increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), researchers at the University of Calgary have found.
The team said that things such as over-wrapping a baby at night time or increasing the room temperature can affect the baby's pattern of breathing.
Other known contributing factors to SIDS include babies sleeping in a belly-down position and exposure to cigarette smoke. Combining any of these factors with thermal stress may put babies at greater risk.
"Addressing these risk factors through tobacco reduction programs as well as better infant care practices could potentially decrease the incidence of SIDS," said Dr. Shabih Hasan, Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine who led the study.
To examine the effects of thermal stress and cigarette smoke exposure researchers exposed pregnant rat pups to increased ambient temperatures as well as cigarette smoke.
This is also the first study involving animals to observe the effects of cigarette smoke rather then just nicotine, which is only one of 4,700 known toxins in cigarettes.
"This finding truly takes us one step closer to medically understanding the mystery of the mechanisms that cause SIDS. We want to encourage Dr. Hasan and others with research focused on these mechanisms to continue their work as there are many parents of SIDS babies that are really looking for medical answers," says George Dalekos, chair of the SIDS Calgary Society.
The research will be published in the June 1st edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.