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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 00:36 GMT
Cot death risk of used mattresses
Baby in cot
A clean mattress is important, say experts
Second-hand mattresses could increase the risk of cot death, experts have warned.

The risk is increased if the mattress was previously used by a child from another home, according to Scottish researchers.

They added that the risk was also higher if the infant was sleeping on the used mattress at time of death.

But cot death experts said it did not matter if the mattress was new, though it should be clean.


There is no need for each baby to have a new mattress

Dr Richard Wilson, FSID
A team from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow studied 131 infants who died of sudden infant death syndrome and 278 healthy infants of the same age.

Each family completed a questionnaire on how they cared for their children.

'Causes unknown'

The researchers found a "significant" link between having a second-hand mattress and a risk of cot death.

Toxic bacteria linked to sudden infant death syndrome have also been found in used infant mattresses.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the authors, led by David Tappin of the Scottish Cot Death Trust, said: "There is a valid statistical association between sudden infant death syndrome and use of an infant mattress previously used by another child, particularly from a other home.

"There remains insufficient evidence to establish a cause and effect relation."

But Dr Richard Wilson, a paediatrician speaking on behalf of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, said: "Babies are safest sleeping on their backs on clean, firm, well-fitting mattresses.

"Mattresses with complete PVC, or removable washable covers are easiest to keep clean and there is no need for each baby to have a new mattress."

He added: "The causes of cot death are still unknown and it still claims the life of a baby every day in the UK.

"FSID is already funding research into links between bacteria growing in mattresses and their effect on some vulnerable babies. "

The FSID said it did not matter what kind of mattress is used in a cot, or whether it was new.

It added that larger studies had found nothing to suggest that every baby needs a new mattress.

But it said the mattress must be:

  • Clean
  • Firm, not soft
  • Does not sag
  • Shows no signs of deterioration

The FSID added mattresses with a complete PVC surface or a removable washable cover were easiest to keep clean.

The FSID can be contacted on 0870 787 0554.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jane Warr
"Just over a half of babies died on second hand mattresses"
Aileen Clarke reports
"Foreign bacteria is very bad."
See also:

22 Aug 02 | Health
24 Oct 01 | Health
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