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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Sleep apnea among kids: Things to know

Sleep apnea is less common affecting only about two to three per cent children.

New Delhi |
Updated: October 28, 2021 2:27:16 pm
sleep, sleep apneaA sleep study is the most accurate method of diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea. (Source: pixabay)

By Dr Suresh Gowda

Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes difficulty in breathing for children while they sleep. The muscles relax while sleeping and get blocked by adenoids and tonsils. Snoring and pauses in their breathing are noticed in children when they fall asleep. Snoring is believed to be quite common in children as approximately 15 percent to 20 percent of children snore. But sleep apnea is less common affecting only about two to three per cent children.

Some of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in children are bedwetting, headaches in the morning, restlessness, drowsy during the day, sleepwalking, sleeping in wrong positions, snoring loudly, having a poor appetite, breathing through the mouth at night, choking or swallowing problems.

What causes OSA in children?

Enlargement of the tonsils in the back of the throat, adenoids in the back of the nose, and turbinates in the breathing passage are the most common causes of OSA in children. Tonsils and adenoids grow the fastest between the ages of two and seven. The removal of the tonsils and adenoids cures OSA in 80-90 percent of children. The adenoids can sometimes regrow. If the symptoms return, your child may require additional surgery.

Fever, obesity, allergies, certain medical conditions associated with weak muscles or Down Syndrome, are a few of the other causes of OSA.

How is a child’s obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will inquire about your child’s symptoms, medical history, and sleeping habits. They examine your child physically. Your child may also be subjected to a sleep study.

A sleep study is the most accurate method of diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea. However, the test may be difficult to administer to younger children or those who refuse to cooperate. A baby’s sleep will be connected to monitors, which will evaluate brain activity, heart’s electrical activity, amount of oxygen and often carbon dioxide in the blood Movement of the chest and abdominal wall and the activities of the muscle.

What is the treatment of OSA?

After a diagnosis is made, treatment is determined by what is causing the problem and how serious it is.

Children with enlarged adenoids and tonsils may require surgery to remove them.

Children who are severely overweight must begin an exercise and weight-management program.

Children with special needs or severe sleep apnea may require the use of a Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP) machine to help them breathe at night.

Children with long-term nasal allergies may try a variety of medical treatments. If necessary, your doctor will go over these with you.

Physical activity and diet to treat sleep apnea if he or she is obese.

Expansion of the maxilla in a short period of time. An orthodontist places this device in place. The device helps to open up the palate and nasal passages.

Avoiding second-hand smoke, indoor pollutants, and allergens. This is especially important for children who have nasal congestion.

What are the risk factors involved with OSA?

Skull or facial abnormalities

Cerebral palsy

Sickle cell disease

Disease of the Neuromuscular System

Low birth weight

When should you see a doctor?

Take your child to your doctor if you suspect he or she has OSA. A paediatrician or an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be referred to your child. The doctor may recommend that your child be monitored overnight, either in the hospital or at home. After visiting the doctor, understand why a new medicine or treatment is being prescribed and how it will benefit your child. Inquire whether your child’s condition can be treated in any other way. Understand why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results may imply and know what to expect if your child does not take the medication or undergoes the test or procedure. This could help the child to get diagnosed and treated with OSA.

(The writer is Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospitals, HRBR, Bangalore.)

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