High Altitudes May Be Harmful To Some Infants

March 20, 1998

(Effect of exposure to 15% oxygen on breathing patterns and oxygen saturation in infants: interventional study)

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In a paper in this week's BMJ, Parkins et al investigate the effect of a reduction in oxygen supply to infants (airway hypoxia), such as may occur with a respiratory infection, during air travel or whilst at high altitude. The authors exposed 34 infants to air containing 15 per cent oxygen (six per cent less than normal) and they found that blood oxygen levels were maintained at slightly reduced rates in most of the infants . However, four infants unpredictably had severe falls in oxygen saturation (hypoxaemia).

Parkins et al conclude that their findings may explain why some infants, with reduced oxygen in their airways as a result of respiratory infection, develop sudden or persistent falls in blood oxygen saturation. They also suggest that their study may contribute to understanding the relation between respiratory infections, airway hypoxia and sudden infant death syndrome.


Professor David Southall, Professor of Paediatrics, Academic Department of Paediatrics, North Staffordshire Hospital Centre, Stoke on Trent

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