Mason City preschool adding oximeters

Owlet Smart Sock devices that measure heart rate and oxygen levels are being set up at Charlie Brown Preschool and Childcare

Posted: Aug 12, 2019 9:16 PM
Updated: Aug 12, 2019 9:23 PM

MASON CITY, Iowa - It may come as a surprise that your baby's heart rate, oxygen level and sleep can be tracked through their feet. But thanks to a device created by four Dads in Utah, the Owlet Smart Sock can make that happen.

The sock has gained some attention in Iowa, as more daycares are starting to add them, with Charlie Brown's locations in Mason City and Clear Lake being the latest.

Haley Rahe has two kids that go to Charlie Brown, with another one on the way. Fortunately, she's able to see them.

"It's hard to bring your kids to daycare as it is, because you just miss them all day."

When her boy is born, she will utilize the device, which works with infants up to 18 months old, as it can give her peace of mind.

"I can't spend all day with him, so to be able to check in and see where he's at and how he's doing and make sure that nothing's going on, that will definitely be helpful. We didn't do that with the first two."

Almost three years ago, 3 1/2 month old Knox Palmer of La Porte City died of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome, or SUIDS. His family wishes there was a way to be alerted when he stopped breathing in order to intervene, and actually discovered the Owlet Smart Sock upon the recommendation of research and other parents before his passing. Shortly after, the Palmer's started the Knox Blocks Foundation, with the goal of getting Smart Socks to as many families as possible.

Mary Janssen is the Regional Director of Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral of Northeast Iowa (ICCR&R), and has been working with Charlie Brown and other daycares on installing the devices. The agency's "Green Glow" project was started by Knox's now- 13 year-old sister Grace, who raised $4,800 to go towards childcares, and provided 60 Owlets that have been placed in daycares in their 19-county area as part of a pilot program. Charlie Brown is participating in a similar program through funding from the North Iowa Children's Alliance to get the socks.

Janssen says the socks are typically put on infants during naptime.

"Those readings during that time will provide us an average reading of the day."

The sock is synced to a base station that lights up and sounds an alert if the infant's heart rate or oxygen level is outside of a preset zone. This is done through pulse oximetry, with a small light shining through skin and estimates these levels based on how much light is transmitted to the sensor.

"You see the families that have had the stories that are pretty impactful of how the red alert has caught heart disease or something early on that they wouldn't have known, because the baby can't tell you what's going on."

While Janssen doesn't know if the sock would have detected SUIDS, she believes it could have bought the Palmer family time.

"They had some researchers from Harvard tell them that."

In the years it has been available to the market, it has detected some issues.

"It picks up fevers and low oxygen levels. If a child has a high heart rate, we know that they probably have a fever. It's also picked up RSV (Respiratory Virus) in one childcare center that started using the socks two years ago, and the children had lower oxygen levels. Not in a danger zone, but in a lower level. All of the families took them to the doctor, and it was the start of RSV."

Janssen believes Knox would be proud of the work that's been done in his memory.

"We do this because we believe in the foundation. We do it because we see this family's mission, we see the foundation and how hard it works. But we also do each install for Knox's memory. It's a really cool process for us to be a part of."

Parents can buy them online; however, the cost is about $300. If you can't afford one, the Knox Blocks Foundation has an application for assistance.

Newman Early Childcare in Mason City is next in line on having Owlet Socks installed.

Currently, the Owlet Smart Sock is not an FDA-approved device, and is only meant for consumer monitoring purposes. However, this Fall, ICCR&R will be starting a clinical study with 300 infants in their coverage area monitored through the socks, with the goal of seeing if the devices can predict RSV or any type of virus early.

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