When Your Child Snores

child sleeping

Normally, people think of adults when a snoring problem is mentioned.  However, children can have a snoring problem, too.  Persistently snoring on nearly a nightly basis has been reported in 8 to 12% of children, with the incidence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurring in 2 to 3% of children under the age of ten.  Upper airway obstruction that accompanies OSA leads to oxygen desaturation and fragmented sleep when the child awakens multiple times during the night to change positions to improve breathing.

Some symptoms to watch for in children with OSA are restless sleep, snoring, irritability, hyperactivity, aggression, breathing from the mouth, and poor concentration.  In some cases, a growth delay may be apparent.  It is important for parents to be aware of their child’s sleeping habits and symptoms in order to know when their physician should be consulted.  Having the upper airways examined is the first step in treating the condition, preventing other health risks later in life.

In order to assess the cause and degree of a child’s OSA, diagnostic tests may be necessary.  X-rays, CT scans, laryngoscopy, cephalometry, or an overnight sleep study can give the physician the information they need in treating the affliction.  The most common cause of childhood OSA is tonsillar and adenoid hypertrophy, or enlargement.  Other causes can include allergic rhinitis (chronic nasal blockage due to allergies), obesity, muscular dystrophy, or craniofacial abnormalities.   It should be noted that there is an increased risk of siblings also having OSA.

The most common treatment for childhood OSA is the surgical removal of the adenoids and tonsils (adenotonsillectomy), which has been shown to be effective.  Other treatments include a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to keep the airways open, correction of craniofacial abnormalities, or (in severe cases) tracheostomy.  Parents should seek early treatment for OSA in order to improve their child’s quality of life, and prevent future problems.

Please share your experiences with childhood OSA, and other signs and symptoms that parents should watch for.