When most children lay in their bed and sleep, they barely move or make a sound. To a parent, it’s the most precious sight and signals the end of the day. But what if your child snores? Short episodes of snoring can be normal, but prolonged, frequent snoring can be the first sign of obstructive sleep apnea.
Did you know that obstructive sleep apnea affects 2-3% of pediatric patients? If your child snores a lot, it may be causing tiredness during the day that can manifest itself as behavior problems. In most normal kids, it is due to enlarged tonsils, which can be evaluated by your pediatrician who can then make the appropriate referral to an expert in this area, usually an ENT physician. Sometimes x-rays of the airway are done to see how big the tonsil are. Tonsil and adenoidectomy is the primary treatment for this type of snoring and is very successful in treating the disorder.
Image: The annotated image shows enlarged adenoids, outlined in yellow, as the cause of this patient’s snoring. The arrow represents the normal thickness.
However, there are children that still have obstruction and noisy breathing after primary treatment and need to be reevaluated. This is especially true if your child has Down syndrome or any condition that affects the facial structures. In this situation a sleep study is often performed to assess the severity of obstruction. A facemask worn during sleep can then be prescribed, providing pressure to treat the obstruction. The pressure keeps the airway open during breathing and allows the child to sleep.
Contributed by Dr. Robert J. Fleck and edited by Glenn Miñano, BFA.