London, Dec. 18 (Reuters): Babies exposed to tobacco smoke have a weaker arousal response than other infants which could partly explain why children whose parents smoke have a higher risk of cot death, researchers said today.
Exactly what causes cot death, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in which babies die mysteriously in their sleep, is unknown but lying the baby down on its front and parental smoking are risk factors.
Scientists at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Queensland, Australia, found that children who had been exposed to tobacco smoke while still in the womb were not as easily aroused from sleep as babies of mothers who had not smoked during pregnancy.
“At an age when the incidence of SIDS is at its peak, infants of smoking mothers are less rousable than those of non-smoking mothers... this may partly explain why such infants are more at risk of SIDS,” Anne Chang, an associate professor at the hospital, said in a report.
She and her colleagues tested arousal responses in 20 babies between eight and 12-weeks-old, the age when cot deaths are most common.
All the babies were healthy and had been born at full term but half the mothers had smoked during pregnancy and half had not.