Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea In Children A Serious Condition & Can It Be Reversed?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes problems such as shortness of breath and frequent twitches while sleeping. Sleep apnea usually occurs when a person stops breathing while sleeping; the breath can stop from a few seconds to a few minutes. This can happen 30 or more times in an hour. When this condition happens to children, it is called pediatric sleep apnea.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by blocked (closed) breathing pathways during sleep. Shortly after sleeping in this, normal breath sounds like snoring or suffocation. Children with obstructive sleep apnea usually snore loudly, although not everyone has problems with snoring.(1)

Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea In Children A Serious Condition?

Sleep apnea in children can be a serious condition if left untreated or ignored. It can cause cardiovascular diseases in the future and even sudden death due to a lack of oxygen in the brain and vital organs. Hence the early treatment is necessary to prevent complications.

It may also cause fatigue and hamper the proper growth of your child.

Sleep apnea can result in multiple sleepless nights, due to which your child may feel sleepy or drowsy during the day. He or she may suffer from fatigue, a lack of concentration and other related problems. If you find your child suffering from sleep apnea, then immediate treatment is very important. Sleep apnea is treated with the help of surgery, lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, and other breathing apparatus, etc.(2)

Can Obstructive Sleep Apnea Be Reversed?

In many cases, caring for your child may be the most appropriate way to deal with obstructive sleep apnea. These include the following tips:

Losing Excess Weight – Losing a little weight can also help to ease throat contractions. Sleep apnea can be completely relieved in some cases if a healthy weight of your child is maintained. As the weight increases again, the chances of developing sleep apnea also increase.

Avoid Giving Medication to your child to promote sleep or better breathing without consulting your pediatrician.

Make Your Child Exercise Regularly – Exercising regularly even without losing weight reduces the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea significantly. Engage your child in outdoor sports for at least one hour.

Keep Your Child’s Nose Open At Night While Sleeping – Use the saline nasal spray to keep your nose open at night. Be sure to consult a doctor before using any decongestant and antihistamine nasal spray for your child. Generally, these medicines are recommended for short-duration use only.

Make Your Child Sleep On The Stomach Or Side – sleeping on the back makes the tongue and soft palate relax and tilt backward in the throat, causing obstruction in the airways.(3)(4)

Nonsurgical Treatment For Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea and snoring – non-surgical treatment of these two problems are almost the same, with only a few differences, which are as follows:

  • Behavior modification and changes in sleeping posture of your child
  • Dental Instruments & Mouthpieces
  • CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)
  • Symptomatic medicines as suggested by your pediatrician(5)

Who Is Prone To The Disease?

Children are more likely to have sleep apnea when they are overweight, have similar problems in their family, small breathing passages from birth, etc. In addition, children whose tonsils or adenoids have increased in size also have a high probability of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is diagnosed on the basis of previous medications, family history information, physical examination and sleep study results, etc.

Symptoms Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Symptoms of central and obstructive sleep apnea overlap, so it sometimes becomes more difficult to determine the type of sleep apnea. Some common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea include the following:

  • Strong Snoring, this is the most well-known symptom of obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Shortness Of Breath during sleep (Shortness of breath due to respiratory failure indicates the possibility of central sleep apnea).
  • Dry Mouth or sore throat after waking up in the morning (ask your child for these symptoms)
  • The Feeling Of Headache (mostly in the morning)
  • Difficulty Sleeping (your child is having problems during sleep)
  • Excessive Sleepiness in the day (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Irritability (your child remaining irritated all-day)(3)

References:

  1. Galluzzi F, Pignataro L, Gaini RM, Garavello W. Drug induced sleep endoscopy in the decision-making process of children with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep medicine. 2015;16(3):331-335.
  2. Huang Y-S, Guilleminault C, Lee L-A, Lin C-H, Hwang F-M. Treatment outcomes of adenotonsillectomy for children with obstructive sleep apnea: a prospective longitudinal study. Sleep. 2014;37(1):71-76.
  3. Villa MP, Rizzoli A, Rabasco J, et al. Rapid maxillary expansion outcomes in treatment of obstructive sleep apnea in children. Sleep medicine. 2015;16(6):709-716.
  4. Blechner M, Williamson AA. Consequences of obstructive sleep apnea in children. Current problems in pediatric and adolescent health care. 2016;46(1):19-26.
  5. Huynh NT, Desplats E, Almeida FR. Orthodontics treatments for managing obstructive sleep apnea syndrome in children: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep medicine reviews. 2016;25:84-94.

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