Children and Sleep Apnea

Having children is full of highs and lows when it comes to their health. My own children have had birth abnormalities and broken bones. Most have required surgery. These are gut wrenching times for the parents. Sleep is another such beast that can literally keep a parent up at night wondering what harm can be done when your child is gasping for air or not breathing during sleep. There is also no clear path for children when it comes to diagnosing and treating sleep apnea like there is in adults.

Typically it’s the parent/guardian that notices signs of sleep apnea. The information is then conveyed to the pediatrician. Pediatric Sleep Specialists are few and far between, so the youngsters are typically sent to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat doctor). How do you know if your child has sleep apnea? Here are some warning signs:

Snoring
Daytime cognitive and behavior problems, including problems paying attention, easy distractibility, aggressive behavior and hyperactivity (think ADHD)
Mouth breathing
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
Problems sleeping and restless sleep
Parasomnias such as sleep walking or night terrors
Bed wetting
Failure to thrive (weight loss or poor weight gain)
Excessive daytime sleepiness

Sleep apnea is usually treated with an adenotonsillectomy. This is where the tonsils and adenoids are removed to open up space in the upper airway. Sometimes CPAP is used. Either way, it is very important to bring this to your child’s pediatrician if you suspect sleep apnea. It does not pay to “wait it out” with children and sleep apnea.

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