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The Making of Medicine

When Misused, Car Seats Can be Dangerous, Even Deadly

Everyone knows how important car seats are when children are traveling, but a new review of infant deaths underscores the importance of using them as instructed and only as intended.

Our Rachel Moon, MD, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital, and colleagues examined infant deaths that occurred while the children were sleeping in sitting devices. They found that  more than 60% of the deaths were in car seats, and the seats were used as directed in less than 10% of cases.

Almost none of the car-seat deaths occurred during travel. Out of the total deaths in a sitting device, only .2% occurred in a vehicle that was in motion or temporarily parked.

More than half of car seat deaths occurred at the child’s home. The researchers didn’t determine why the infants were in car seats at home, but they suggested that some parents may not be able to afford a crib and that some people may use the seats as a convenient way to hold a child while doing other tasks. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against this, urging parents not to allow children to routinely sleep in such devices.

Dr. Moon agrees.

“While car seats are important when you’re traveling with an infant, it’s best not to have the infant sleep in the car seat when you’re at home,” she told me. “The safest place for a baby to sleep is on a firm, flat surface.”

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