Tuesday, November 27, 2007




New Zealand asthma research published this month in the journal "Clinical and Experimental Allergy" is a further reason for babies' mattresses to be wrapped in specified plastic, says cot death prevention expert Dr Jim Sprott OBE.

An Auckland University research team has found that sleeping on a used mattress in the first year of life is a risk factor for asthma.(1) The researchers stated that their finding "could be related to the observation that used mattresses have higher levels of [dust] mite allergen."

"The researchers are treating their finding as new, but their conclusions are already out-of-date", stated Dr Sprott. "Canadian asthma research reported in New Zealand in 1998 showed that encasing a mattress in an impermeable plastic cover prevents exposure to house dust mites, so it stands to reason that unwrapped cot mattresses are associated with elevated asthma risk."

In the Canadian research mattresses were encased in vapour-impermeable covers. Using sensitive assays, investigators found that encasement of the mattress significantly reduced house dust mite allergen in beds.(2) Noting that children are most likely to become sensitised to allergens during the first year of life, researcher Dr Allan Becker stated that mattresses should be encased from the time of a baby's birth to minimise exposure to allergens and subsequent sensitisation.

Mattress-wrapping is widely practised in New Zealand for the elimination of cot death risk.(3) "Quite obviously, babies' mattresses should also be wrapped to reduce asthma risk," stated Dr Sprott. "In view of the longstanding Canadian research finding, the Auckland University researchers clearly should take the logical next step and tell parents to wrap babies' mattresses to reduce asthma risk."

Dr Sprott noted that the Auckland University researchers reported a link between daycare attendance and the likelihood of respiratory tract infections. "US research has also shown, again years ago, that cot death risk is much higher in daycares than in babies' own homes," stated Dr Sprott.(4) "The reason for both findings is the multiple re-use of unwrapped mattresses in daycares. So once again the Auckland University researchers should take the logical next step and tell parents to wrap mattresses for avoidance of microbial infections."

"Mattress-wrapping is also essential for prevention of head flattening in babies," stated Dr Sprott. "If a baby is sleeping on a mattress wrapped in accordance with the cot death prevention protocol, the baby does not need to sleep face-up, and so the risk of head flattening can be eliminated by use of the side-sleeping position."

"Paediatric advice on the infant sleeping environment needs urgent revision," stated Dr Sprott. "Parents are being denied full information. Mattress-wrapping in accordance with the cot death prevention protocol eliminates cot death risk, and head flattening can also be avoided; mattress-wrapping also reduces asthma risk and risk of microbial infection.

"So why don't the New Zealand Ministry of Health, Plunket Society and the Auckland University researchers tell parents to wrap babies' mattresses?"

1. Mitchell, E A, et al, Risk factors for asthma at 3.5 and 7 years of age, Clinical & Experimental Allergy 2000; 37 (12), 1747–1755.
2. New Zealand GP (11 February 1998), page 20. Chan-Yueng, M, et al, A Randomized Controlled Study on the Effectiveness of a Multifaceted Intervention Program in the Primary Prevention of Asthma in High-Risk Infants, Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2000; 154: 657-663. Allergen levels in beds where families had encased the mattress were 0.22 microgram of allergen per gram of dust, as compared with 1.18 microgram of allergen per gram of dust for families who did not encase the mattress.
3. Since 1995 an estimated 165,000 New Zealand babies have slept on mattresses wrapped for cot death prevention. During that time the New Zealand nationwide cot death rate has fallen by 67% and the Pakeha (majority NZ European) ethnic rate has fallen by around 84%. There has been no reported cot death among babies sleeping on "wrapped mattresses". Mattress-wrapping statistic based on two research studies which reported the incidence of mattress-wrapping in New Zealand: NZ Med J 2000; 113: 8-10; NZ Med J 2000; 113: 326-327.
4. Moon, R Y, et al, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in Child Care Settings, Pediatrics 2000; 106: 295-300.

Media release issued by:
Consulting chemist & forensic scientist
10 Combes Road
Phone/fax: +64-9-5231150e-mail: sprott@iconz.co.nz
website: http://www.cotlife2000.co.nz/

To purchase a mattress cover for your baby's mattress, please visit Eve's Best.