At 3am last Sunday, first time parents Ryan Golinski and Kate Crawford woke to an alarm. The wearable monitor they’d strapped to their baby’s foot was alerting them that his heart rate was through the roof – 286 beats per minute, more than double the normal pulse for a newborn.
According to a viral status Golinksi posted to his Facebook page, he and his wife reset the Owlet Smart Sock device three times, but still the reading was high.
When the US couple rushed their son the hospital doctors diagnosed Supraventricular Tachycardia, which is an abnormally fast heart rhythm stemming from improper electrical activity in the upper part of the heart. While generally non life-threatening, it can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and/or fainting.
“So everything is going well now and his heart is still extremely healthy, if we didn’t catch it as early as we did with that sock, his heart wouldn’t have been able to handle it and we could be dealing with something a lot more serious,” Golinski wrote.
The wearable device that the couple were using is among several baby heart and breathing monitors available on the market.
Most work by communicating data to a base station or mobile app that will alert you if the child’s levels heart rate or oxygen levels fall outside of preset ‘normal’ zones.
However, as Red Nose notes, while such devices may be recommended by doctors in certain circumstances (if a baby has a sleep-related breathing disorder, for example), they are not recommended by the organisation’s Scientific Advisory Group as a means of preventing sudden infant death.
While some manufacturers may claim the products prevent SIDS, Red Nose notes that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that is the case.
“The monitor is only an alarm, it is not a life-saving device, and the carer also needs to be able to respond to the alarm and be trained to resuscitate the baby,” the organisation warns.
“A monitor may be very disruptive for the family and some families find using devices can increase anxiety. False alarms may occur if the baby is breathing shallowly, rolls off a mat, or there are technical problems with the machine.”
Parents are advised to seek the advice of their general practitioner, paediatrician or child health nurse before purchasing and using a monitor.
For more information on safe sleeping, download the Red Nose Safe Sleeping brochure here.
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