Does your child snore? Many kids do and for many, it does not represent any kind of problem. An estimated 12% of all American kids snore so it is a common occurrence. If you notice your child is snoring, this should not be an immediate cause for alarm or worry but it can be. Approximately 1 to 3% who suffer from snoring also have what is called “sleep disordered breathing.” Breathing difficulties in children can have a number of causes and mean different things.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is present in about 2 to 4% of kids in the United States. This is can be a dangerous condition and causes people (this is more common in adults) to stop breathing when they sleep. They can stop sleeping many times during the night and the period of time can range from a few seconds to more than a minute.
Another problem, indicated by snoring, that causes breathing difficulties is tonsillitis. This is one of the most common ear nose and throat problems in children and adolescents. More and more tonsillectomies are being performed because of OSA. In the past, more than 90% of these procedures were performed because of recurrent infections. Today, nearly 80% of these surgeries are for OSA and only 20% for infections.
Look for the following to know if you need to seek out an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor for your child:
- Does your child sweat a lot at night? Frequent sweating while sleeping indicates the sympathetic nervous system has been triggered. Basically, when a person stops breathing during sleep, such as when they have OSA, their blood oxygen level drops. This causes the body’s “fight or flight” response to kick in. This is the body’s way to try to open the airway and get more air in.
- Look at the positions and movements your child is in and make while sleeping. If their airway is closed by OSA, they may hyperextend their neck in an attempt to get the airway open. You may also notice the breastbone and rib cage move inward. All of this is indicative of OSA.
- Does your child complain of headaches in the morning? When your body is deprived of oxygen, it is normal to have headaches. The lower oxygen levels also cause a rise in the child’s blood pressure, which is another cause of these morning headaches and indicates OSA.
- Does your child exhibit hyperactivity and inattentiveness symptoms? Many kids who have OSA are accidentally and wrongly diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When you take your child to their pediatrician for ADHD symptoms, mention their snoring and ask about OSA. They may refer you to a Tampa ENT doctor for further testing.
- Does your child wet their bed after you think this should have stopped? New research there is a connection between chronic bedwetting and OSA. Some research has shown that as many as 42% of kids with OSA also wet their beds. Treatment at home for OSA resulted in improvement in 66% of impacted children.
- How is your child’s weight? Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in American adults and is found in many children. Some research shows that as many as 30% of all obese children in the United States also suffer from OSA. It may not be the most fun thing in the world but even if you do not consider the breathing difficulties that are associated with childhood obesity, it is a significant cause of a number of other serious health issues that can be prevented if this is addressed.
- Does your child sleep walk or have a lot of nightmares? These problems can be caused by OSA. A recent study, conducted at Stanford University, found that most children who had OSA and were sleep walking stopped after successful treatment for the underlying breathing difficulties. The problems of sleep walking and nightmares may be linked to decreased oxygen levels at night.
Sleep apnea is one of the most common ENT problems in children and adults. It is also a very dangerous condition. When the flow of oxygen to the brain is interrupted, this can cause a host of health problems and should not be ignored.