Sleep apnea in youngsters: attention-grabbing details

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that causes difficulty breathing in children while they sleep. The muscles relax during sleep and are blocked by polyps and tonsils. Snoring and pauses in breathing are noticed in children while falling asleep. It is believed that snoring is quite common in children, with around 15 to 20 percent of children snoring. However, sleep apnea is less common and only affects about two to three percent of children.

Some of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in children are bed-wetting, morning headaches, restlessness, daytime sleepiness, sleepwalking, sleeping in the wrong position, loud snoring, loss of appetite, night breathing through the mouth, choking or swallowing problems.

What causes OSA in children?

Enlarged tonsils in the throat, polyps in the bridge of the nose, and turbinates in the airways are the most common causes of OSA in children. Almonds and polyps grow fastest between the ages of two and seven. Removal of tonsils and polyps cures OSA in 80-90 percent of children. The polyps can sometimes grow back. If symptoms return, your child may need additional surgery.

Fever, , allergies, certain conditions related to muscle weakness or Down’s syndrome are some of the other causes of OSA.

How is a child’s obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed?

The doctor will inquire about your child’s symptoms, medical history, and sleeping habits. You physically examine your child. Your child may also have a sleep study.

A sleep study is the most accurate way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. However, the test can be difficult to take in younger children or people who refuse to cooperate. A baby’s sleep is hooked up to monitors that evaluate brain activity, electrical activity of the heart, the amount of oxygen and often carbon dioxide in the blood. Movements of the chest and abdominal wall and the activities of the muscles.

What is the treatment for OSA?

After a diagnosis is made, treatment will be determined based on what is causing the problem and how serious it is.

Children with enlarged polyps and tonsils may need surgery to remove them.

Severely overweight children should begin an exercise and management program.

Children with special needs or severe sleep apnea may need to use a continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) machine to breathe at night.

Children with long-term nasal allergies can try a variety of medical treatments. Your doctor will discuss these with you if necessary.

Exercise and diet to treat sleep apnea if he or she is overweight.

Expansion of the upper jaw in a short time. An orthodontist places this device. The device helps open the roof of the mouth and nasal passages.

Avoiding passive smoking, indoor pollutants and allergens. This is especially important for children with a stuffy nose.

What are the risk factors associated with OSA?

Skull or facial abnormalities

Cerebral palsy

Sickle cell anemia

Disease of the neuromuscular system

Low birth

When should you see a doctor?

Take your child to your doctor if you suspect they may have OSA. A pediatrician or an ear, nose and throat specialist can be referred to your child. The doctor may recommend that you monitor your child overnight, either in the or at home. After seeing your doctor, find out why a new medicine or treatment is being prescribed and how it can benefit your child. Inquire about other ways to treat your child’s condition. why a test or procedure is recommended, what the results may mean, and know what to expect if your child does not take the drug or undergoes the test or procedure. This could help the child be diagnosed and treated for OSA.

(The author is a consulting pediatrician and neonatologist, Motherhood Hospitals, HRBR, Bangalore.)

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