How to Recognize Obstructive Sleep Apnea In Children?

By on July 8, 2013

Obstructive Sleep Apnea In ChildrenSleep apnea is a common night-time breathing disorder that affects both men and women of all ages, and even children can suffer from sleep apnea.

There are three types of sleep apnea such as obstructive, central and mixed. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea in children.

It is caused by an obstruction of the airways in your child such as adenoids and an enlarged tonsil that affects the child’s air-flow and disturbs their normal sleep pattern. OSA is most commonly found in children between 2 and 6 years of age.


The most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea in children include:

  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids in the upper airways, which may block nasal passages and lead to breathing difficulties during night sleep.
  • Obesity increases the risk of OSA nearly five times.
  • Sometimes children with Narrow facial bone structure and small jaw bones can have this type of problem.
  • Long-term hay fever and allergy can cause OSA.
  • Conditions like Pierre-robin syndrome and Down syndrome are another cause of OSA
  • Neuromuscular diseases are also one of the leading causes.


Symptoms may vary from one child to other child
The following are the most common symptoms of OSA such as:

  • Loud snoring and noisy breathing while sleeping
  • Bed wetting
  • Breathing through mouth instead of nose
  • Weight loss and gain
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Excessive morning sleepiness in the school
  • Behavior problems such as frustration, hyperactivity, irritation, mood swings and poor school performance
  • Morning headaches
  • Repeated infection


If your child is experiencing some of these symptoms, you should consult your child’s physician for a diagnosis. Your child doctor may refer to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor for further evaluation.

Based on the symptoms, your child’s doctor may suggest sleep study test known as ‘polysomnography’ to determine if your child has an obstructive sleep apnea.

This polysomnography test helps to measure heart rate, oxygen level in the blood, brain waves, muscle activity, audio monitoring and amount of air flowing through the mouth and nose.


Treating obstructive sleep apnea in children will improve their behavior and quality of life and the treatment is based on the cause. Obstructive Sleep apnea in children is treated in many ways such as surgery, medication, lifestyle modification and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

These treatments will depend on many factors such as your child’s age, medical history and any other medical problems.

If you left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea in children can cause obesity, poor growth, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases.

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