Kansas infant death rate from asphyxia doubled in 3 years

October 9, 2018

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The rate of Kansas infants dying from a lack of oxygen more than doubled in just three years, according to data released last month.

The Kansas State Child Death Review Board’s analysis of 2016 child deaths found that 20 children died from unintentional asphyxia, such as suffocation, strangulation or choking. The finding is a small fraction of the state’s 394 child deaths in 2016, but the rate of death from asphyxia has grown steadily since 2013, the Wichita Eagle reported.

Sixteen of the 20 Kansas asphyxia deaths involved a child less than 1 year old, while 17 of the deaths were sleep-related. Most of the sleep-related deaths occurred when a child wasn’t sleeping in a crib or bassinet, but shared a sleeping surface with another person, according to state figures.

“I think the increase in sleep-related deaths and the unintentional asphyxia deaths is very concerning,” said Christy Schunn, director of the KIDS Network, an infant death prevention group in Kansas.

The state’s rate of unintentional asphyxia death in 2005 was 5.2 per 100,000 population for children less than 1 year old, according to the report. The death rate in 2016 was 41.9 per 100,000.

The findings mirror a rise nationally in the rate of sleep-related infant deaths, which increased between 2013 and 2015, according to a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released earlier this year.

Wichita pediatrician Katherine Melhorn, who’s also an expert on child abuse injuries and child neglect, is working to inform families about “the danger of sleeping with your babies.”

Babies don’t have the strength and agility to move out from under a pillow or an arm, which can suffocate them, she said. Part of the issue is that new parents are exhausted and will often do whatever they can to get sleep, including allowing their baby to sleep with them.

Melhorn warned that a child is “too young to get themselves out of a bad situation.”


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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