Long journeys in child seats expose babies to a health hazard
Newborns and babies should always be carried in the car in special child seats to avoid possible injuries in accidents. However, researchers found that babies who have difficulty breathing in such safety seats can suffer from breathing difficulties.
In their investigation, scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Southampton found that placing infants in special child seats can lead to breathing difficulties over a long period of time. The doctors published the results of the study in the medical journal "BMJ".
Study examines effects of long journeys in child seats
Mostly, expectant parents are advised to buy a safety seat for children early on. However, the new investigation has now shown that prolonged placement in child seats can lead to changes in the heart rate. The current study is the first to evaluate the effect of child seats on infants, replicating the angle of the back seat of a small family car, the authors explain in a press release from the University of Bristol.
Experts are developing a motion simulator for the study
For their study, the researchers developed a motion simulator that reproduced vertical vibrations that resembled those of a car safety seat in a rearward-facing position on the back of a car. This simulator was developed, manufactured and tested by the Human Factors Research Unit at the University of Southampton Institute of Sound and Vibration Research. The simulation reproduces the vertical vibrations of travel at a speed of 30 kilometers per hour on a straight urban street, the doctors explain. There are no actions such as braking, accelerating or driving through potholes.
Test examines physiological effects of vibrations on the body of infants
The test showed the effects of vibrations on the heart and lung functions of the babies. The researchers discovered that normal infants and prematurely born babies showed significant signs of potentially negative cardiorespiratory effects. The study was the first to examine the physiological impact of vibrations on the body of infants in a car safety seat, says Professor Peter Fleming of the University of Bristol.
Driving in a child seat increases the heart and respiratory rate in babies
When babies are exposed to the vibrations of a car ride in an upright 40 degree position, this leads to a significant increase in heart and respiratory rates, the scientists explain. In addition, there is a reduced oxygen saturation. By simulating the movement, a significant increase in potentially clinically significant oxygen desaturation was found, the experts add.
Child seats are not a suitable place to sleep for infants
Parents should by no means stop using child seats, because small children urgently need to be transported with sufficient security, the experts say. However, parents should not use car seats as a bed for babies.
Motion simulator could lead to the redesign of child seats
More research is urgently needed, explains Professor Michael Griffin from the University of Southampton. The motion simulator can be used to examine the potential benefits and limitations of different child seat designs. The results could then lead to a revision of current recommendations on the use of child seats on longer trips, the researchers believe. In addition, the results found could also have an impact on the redesign of car seats for newborns, adds Prof. Griffin.
Further research is urgently needed
The new findings are cause for concern. Parents should always keep a close eye on their babies when they go on long journeys in a car seat, the scientists warn. In addition, parents should not drive long distances without taking breaks. The decisive factor, however, must always be to avoid the risk of injury in a traffic accident. Infants and babies should therefore never be transported in the car without a child seat, the researchers explain. Further research is now needed to find out how children and babies can be transported safely and comfortably in a child seat. (as)