What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is a common problem in children, and is increasingly being recognized as a cause of daytime attention and behavioral problems. Unlike adults with sleep apnea, who are often overweight and wake up frequently at night, children with OSAS are more difficult to identify and diagnose.
Although snoring is a common symptom in children with obstructive sleep apnea, it is important to remember that between 10-20 percent of normal children snore (primary snoring) on a regular or intermittent basis. In addition to continuous loud snoring, other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in children include:
The diagnosis of OSA in children is usually based on the characteristic symptoms and evidence of adenotonsillar hypertrophy (big tonsils and adenoids) and mouth breathing. Children suspected of having OSA should be seen by a Pediatric ENT specialist for further evaluation.
If necessary, further testing might include polysomnography (a pediatric sleep study). .
Pediatrics most commonly receive an Overnight Polysomnography Study (PSG) which is the basic overnight sleep study that will determine what kind of sleep disorder the patient has.
Although younger children with OSA are not usually overweight, if a child is overweight, the additional weight can contribute to his/her symptoms. Weight loss is therefore important for overweight children with obstructive sleep apnea.Other underlying medical conditions, especially allergies, should also be treated. A nasal steroid might help improve nasal obstruction and OSA symptoms in children that also have allergies. One common treatment for kids with OSA is surgery, with removal of the child's enlarged tonsils and adenoids (tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy or T&A).
What You Need To Know
As in adults, obstructive sleep apnea can cause many complications, including poor growth, headaches, high blood pressure and other heart and lung problems. OSA, and sleep problems in general, are increasingly being recognized as a cause of children's daytime school and behavioral problems. If your child is having problems at school or with his behavior and he snores loudly, you should ask your Pediatrician about OSA. Children with Down Syndrome are at big risk for OSA and should be closely watched for symptoms. Other medical conditions, including various neuromuscular and central nervous system abnormalities, craniofacial abnormalities, like Pierre Robin sequence, Treacher Collins syndrome and Crouzon syndrome, are also often associated with OSA.