According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, approximately 1 to 5 percent of US children are diagnosed each year with sleep apnea. However, experts point to tonsils, adnoids and childhood obesity as the main reasons for the cases of sleep apnea in children. Children are often undiagnosed for sleep apnea and suffer from the symptoms without relief. Left untreated, children can continue to suffer from sleep apnea symptoms and risk their health.

How can you recognize symptoms of sleep apnea in children?

First, it is important to understand exactly what sleep apnea is. Sleep apnea, often referred to as obstructive sleep apnea, is a condition causing the upper airway or throat to collapse. This prevents breathing, specifically preventing oxygen from being brought into the lungs, resulting in shallow breathing and pauses in breathing, know as sleep apnea. These pauses not only cause sleep disorders, they can be dangerous in some cases, fatal. While sleep apnea can happen at any age, children between 3 and 7 seem to have the disease more commonly.

In many cases, children suffer from sleep apnea due to enlarged tonsils or adnoids. However, more and more children are suffering from childhood obesity, a major cause of sleep apnea in children and adults.

What are the signs of sleep apnea in children?

As a parent, you should seek medical assistance if you child snores frequently or if you observe labored breathing. Look for restlessness during the night. Also, if a child wakes up frequently during the night or experiences morning headaches or daytime sleepiness, these may also be signs. In many cases, children will display daytime symptoms of sleep apnea through behavioral problems, such as attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, irritability and learning problems. Poor academic performance has also been recorded due to sleep apnea in children, according to a recent study in the journal Sleep. In some cases, children with severe sleep apnea may also have heart conditions or high blood pressure.

How do you treat sleep apnea in children?

Snoring is a medical condition parents should be aware of in their children and seek medical advice if present. It is important to see your pediatrician if you witness any of these symptoms so that your doctor can look for enlarged tonsils and adenoids. In many cases, more serious problems may be present and may require surgery for children with enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

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