9 causes of snoring and sleep apnea in kids

What will happen if your kid is unable to get quality sleep? Dr Atul Mittal answers!

Like adults, kids too can have medical conditions that interfere with their ability to sleep. Did you know around 12% of children snore habitually and up to 2% suffer from sleep apnea? Snoring is caused when the palate at the back of your mouth vibrates with every incoming breath, whereas, sleep apnea is any involuntary pause while breathing. This pause may or may not be due to snoring. Although with time most kids outgrow the condition, don't hesitate to take your doctor's opinion if your child snores heavily or feels sleepy during the daytime.

Although with time most kids outgrow the condition, don't hesitate to take your doctor's opinion if your child snores heavily or feels sleepy during the daytime. Dr Atul Mittal, Director, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, New Delhi explains the causes and complications of snoring or sleep apnea in kids.

Why do kids snore?

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Obstruction of the airways is the common cause of snoring and sleep apnea. It leads to partial or complete blockage of the airway preventing air from entering the lungs. It is broadly divided into -- upper airway obstruction (UAO) and lower airway obstruction (LAO). Upper airway obstruction occurs in the area from the nose and lips to the larynx and can lead to a medical emergency in some cases. Lower airway obstruction can occur between the larynx and the narrow passageways of your lungs. Read about sleep disorders in children. Here are the top ten reasons for narrowing or blocking of the airway:

  1. Allergic reactions: If your kid is allergic to a bee sting, medication, pollen or certain food, she might experience swelling of the trachea or throat, which in turn causes obstruction in the airflow. Forget about outdoor allergens! Is your home allergen-free?
  2. Breathing in smoke or foreign bodies: Inhalation of smoke due to fire or burns or other particles like pieces of a balloon, coins, small toys, buttons or even peanuts causes obstruction of the airway.
  3. Bronchitis: In some cases, even inflammation of the bronchial tubes (airways that carry air to your lungs) cause problems during sleep. Read more about bronchitis -- causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Epiglottitis: The epiglottis is a structure that separates the trachea from the esophagus. Any infection in the epiglottis (epiglottitis) can hinder the airflow to the lungs and cause sleep apnea or snoring.
  5. Enlarged adenoids: It not only makes it hard to breathe but also increases their risk of ear problems.
  6. Tonsillitis: The inflammation of the tonsils makes it difficult for the passage of air through the enlarged tonsils which in turn increases the chances of suffering from sleep apnea. Here's more on the treatment and prevention of tonsillitis.
  7. Infections or injury: Viral or bacterial infections of the upper or lower respiratory tract also increases the risk of snoring in kids.
  8. Throat infection: Also, a collection of pus in the tissues at the back of the throat during or soon after a throat infection is a key reason for sleep apnea.
  9. Asthma: Inflammation of the airways causes swelling of the lining of the air passages that in turn reduces the amount of air breathed in by the lungs.

What will happen if left unattended?

If your kid is finding it hard to deal with sleep apnea or unable to get a good night's sleep, consult your doctor. It is important to resolve sleep issues at the earliest for your kid's sake. Not only does it help in fortifying your memory and learning abilities but poor sleep can impact immunity, blood pressure and growth in children. Moreover, fragmented sleep or lack of proper sleep drives the appetite for carbohydrate-rich foods which can lead to obesity. Sleep disruptions also affect your child's mental alertness, attention, concentration and also make her more physically impulsive, hyperactive or lazy. Here are 8 ways to ensure your child sleeps like a baby!

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