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Identifying sleep apnea in children - June 26th, 2019

Although sleep apnea is a condition typically associated with older people, it can occur in people of any age, including children. If you’re concerned that your child may have sleep apnea, it is important to understand that the condition manifests in different ways in children and adults.

What are the causes of sleep apnea in children?

Known as paediatric obstructive sleep apnea, the version of the disorder that affects children is usually caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. In adults, the underlying cause tends to be obesity.

However, as obesity prevalence amongst children continues to rise, so does the number of children suffering from sleep apnea. In this way, weight gain can still affect a young person’s chances of developing the condition, and it is important to focus on feeding your child a diet that will help them to maintain a healthy weight.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea in children?

Like adult sleep apnea, symptoms of the paediatric version of the disorder can include loud snoring, uneven breathing during sleep, restlessness, and mouth breathing. However, children may also experience night time symptoms such as bed wetting and sleep terrors.

The daytime symptoms of sleep apnea also tend to be different in children compared to adults. Whilst adults with the condition tend to be sluggish and irritable, a child with the condition may experience learning and development issues, hyperactivity, poor performance in school, behavioural issues, and problems with paying attention. Of course, these symptoms can be caused by a wide range of issues, so it is important that you make an appointment with a doctor in order to secure a diagnosis.

What are the risk factors for developing sleep apnea?

Although any child could potentially develop sleep apnea (particularly if they are overweight), some are more at risk than others. For example, conditions such as cerebral palsy, sickle cell disease, Down syndrome, neuromuscular disease, and facial abnormalities can all put children at a higher risk of sleep apnea.

Treating the condition

Fortunately, sleep apnea in children can be effectively treated using oral devices, medications, CPAP machines or, if necessary, surgery to remove the tonsils. It is important to secure a diagnosis early on if you believe that your child has sleep apnea as it can cause issues with growth, heart health, and personal development if left untreated.

Photo: IMG_4227 by pixydust8605 licensed under Creative commons 4
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