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Sleep apnea in children: symptoms and consequences

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

When we talk about sleep apnea, a person who snores a lot while sleeping comes to mind, but do you know what those snoring is due to? The sound is emitted because the air is trying to pass through a narrow or blocked duct. This can also occur in children and be very annoying and dangerous. When sleeping, the body’s muscles relax, but usually, the throat is kept open enough to allow air to pass through. However, in children with sleep apnea, as in adults, the upper throat muscles relax, closing the air passages. This makes them unable to breathe well, and snoring occurs, which, rather than bothering, should be taken as an alert. In this FastlyHealarticle, we tell you all about sleep apnea in children, the symptoms, and the consequences it can bring.

What is Childhood Sleep Apnea: Causes

Apnea is a respiratory disease in which breathing is paralyzed during sleep hours. While we sleep, the muscles relax, including those that work on breathing. However, the pharynx remains open so that air can flow through the ducts and reach the lungs.

When a child has sleep apnea, it usually occurs because the throat is very narrow or obstructed by something, usually due to adenoids or enlarged tonsils. The pharynx is blocked when the upper muscles relax, and air cannot pass. Adenoids are parts of tissue in the pharynx located near the nose that sometimes atrophies and form vegetations. Therefore, if your child has adenoid foliage, it is very likely that he suffers from sleep apnea. But not all children with apnea will have vegetation, although it is the most common cause.

  • In addition to adenoids or tonsils, other causes that can promote sleep apnea in children are:
  • The obesity
  • Genetic syndromes like Down syndrome
  • Malformations in the mouth or pharynx
  • Family history if either parent suffers or has suffered from sleep apnea

Childhood sleep apnea occurs in 2% of children and can appear at any age. However, it is more common between 3 and 6 years, which is the stage in which the lymphoid tissue of the upper respiratory tract is most significant than the oropharynx, which can cause these problems.

Childhood sleep apnea can be periodic and appear several times a night, but if it occurs on many occasions, it is obstructive sleep apnea.

Does my child have sleep apnea? Symptoms

To know if your child or baby has sleep apnea, watch out if any of these symptoms appear during the night or if you have noticed any of them lately. It would help if you went to the pediatrician immediately since sleep apnea can have more severe consequences in children than in adults.

In addition, as we have seen before, if your child has vegetation, he may likely suffer from sleep apnea.

The symptoms are:

  • Loud and frequent snoring is the most apparent symptom of apnea. It is the sound of air trying to pass through the airways. It usually appears shortly after falling asleep.
  • Breathing problems during sleep If your baby or child has trouble breathing while sleeping or waking up frequently, it will be a symptom of apnea. When a respiratory arrest occurs, children are soon awakened by the instinct to continue breathing. The child may wake up scared or panting.
  • Drowsiness during the day or overexcitement due to respiratory arrest, the child will wake up several times at night, and in addition, it is most likely that he will startle. This will cause you not to have a restful sleep, and during the day, you feel tired, and you can fall asleep several times throughout the day, suffering that apnea again. However, although this is very common in adults, children are more likely to become overexcited or hyperactive during the day rather than feeling tired. The problem is that it will cause them more fatigue, and at night they will not be able to restful sleep.
  • Difficulty paying attention or behavior problems due to lack of fatigue may cause the child to show more aggressive behavior and be irritated. It may also cause problems for you to maintain your attention.
  • Headaches. A lack of sleep can lead to headaches during the day due to tiredness.
  • Sweating due tonight shocks the child may wake up drenched in sweat or cold sweats.

Sleep apnea in children: consequences

The consequences of infantile apnea are much more severe than in adults since children are still in the development phase, And much more in babies.

If the child does not receive treatment, this apnea can even cause heart problems or difficulties in development and learning.

The main consequences of infant apnea are:

  • Complications of the heart or lungs. When air does not enter, there is a lack of oxygen which can cause problems in such vital organs as the heart or lungs.
  • Blood pressure problems such as hypertension. The lack of oxygen in the blood triggers an alarm system, accelerates circulation, and can cause blood pressure problems.
  • Slow or affecting growth and development. Especially when children are young, and they are developing their cognitive skills, they are learning new things like talking, walking, or eating; their learning can be affected not only by the lack of restful sleep but by the lack of oxygen in the brain.

However, these consequences may not pass if sleep apnea is treated in time. That is why you must go to the pediatrician as soon as possible.

Sleep apnea in children: treatment

Before any sleep apnea symptoms, it is essential to go to the pediatrician, who may refer the child to an otolaryngologist since they are usually the most common causes.

Treatment in the case of tonsils or adenoids will be performed by surgery in which these tissues that impede breathing will be removed. It is a very effective treatment that can completely solve apnea.

It is usually the most common treatment for sleep apnea; however, if it is not the tissue that hinders it, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device can also be used. It is a mask that the child will have to wear at night. They expel a constant air pressure through the nose that allows you to maintain normal breathing. This treatment is not usually used unless the tonsils or adenoids cannot be removed or if the surgery has not worked. It may take a while for your child to get used to the mask, but it will solve the problem.

If the cause of apnea is overweight or obesity, the treatment will be to put on a proper diet so that the child loses weight. Meanwhile, the respiratory mask can be used as a compliment so that you do not have apneas during the night.

There are also dental appliances that push the jaw to keep the airways open.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Sleep apnea in children: symptoms and consequences, we recommend that you enter our category of Ear, nose, and throat.

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