Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is a disorder in which your breathing stops involuntarily for small periods of time when you are asleep. Such time duration when the breathing stops is known as apnea or apneic episodes. Usually, the air flows into the lungs from your mouth and nose smoothly. When this normal airflow is repeatedly obstructed throughout the night, it is termed as obstructive sleep apnea.(1)
The reason for the airflow to stop for these short periods is that the airway area in the throat region is too narrow. Snoring is one of the main characteristics of obstructive sleep apnea. It is caused because airflow squeezes through the narrowed or constricted airway.(1)
Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Dangerous In Toddlers?
Obstructive sleep apnea can be dangerous in toddlers. It can affect a child’s growth, hamper cognitive behavior and development. It can also cause serious complications like failure to grow, heart problems and even death.(2)
How Common Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea In Toddlers?
Obstructive sleep apnea is very common in toddlers. Snoring and breathing from mouth usually propel parents to take medical advice. Around 3 to 12 percent of toddlers snore. obstructive sleep apnea affects around 1 to 10 percent of children. Most toddlers present with mild symptoms and usually, most of them outgrow the condition. Most children suffering from obstructive sleep apnea belong to the age group of 2 to 8 years old.(3,4)
Sleep apnea in toddlers may present with following signs and symptoms-
- Snorting or snoring
- Breaks in breathing
- Coughing or choking
- Sleeplessness or restless sleep
- Breathing through the mouth
- Bed-wetting or enuresis
Some babies and infants may not snore. They just experience a disturbed sleep leading to-
- Poor performance in school
- Attention problems
- Learning difficulties
- Behavioral problems
- Improper weight gain
In toddlers and children, the commonest cause of obstructive sleep apnea is tonsillitis and adenitis. That said, obesity is also one of the causes of obstructive sleep apnea in children. Other health conditions like craniofacial abnormalities, neuromuscular problems, etc. may be responsible for obstructive sleep apnea in some kids.
Obesity is one of the most important risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. Apart from this, other risk factors may include-
- Down’s syndrome
- Craniofacial abnormalities
- Cerebral palsy
- Sickle cell disease
- Neuromuscular conditions
- LBW or low birth weight when born
- History of obstructive sleep apnea in the family
Complications Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea In Toddlers
- Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to many serious complications in toddlers. This may include hampered physical and mental growth and development, failure to thrive.
- Cardiac problems and even death.
Lifestyle Changes In Toddlers For Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Some lifestyle changes may help in reducing the intensity of obstructive sleep apnea in toddlers. These changes may also help in preventing attacks of obstructive sleep apnea. These may consist of-
- Keeping Away From All Triggers- Triggers like tobacco smoke, pollens, pollutants, sprays, etc. can make your child’s sleep apnea worse. These factors can cause irritation in airway
- Losing Weight- If your child is overweight or obese, losing weight might be the best solution to reduce or cure obstructive sleep apnea.(5)
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition of the upper airway. It can be quite a serious problem, especially in infants and toddlers as it can lead to dangerous consequences like poor physical and mental growth and development, failure to thrive, heart problems, stroke, and even death. It is necessary to diagnose and treat this condition at the proper time to prevent any serious complications and improve the quality of life. With proper treatment, the condition can be managed, and the symptoms can be reduced.
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- Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea In Children A Progressive Problem & Alternative Treatments For It?
- What Are The Ways To Prevent Obstructive Sleep Apnea In Children & Does It Reoccur?
- What Happens To Untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea In Children & When To Go To Doctor?