Sleep Apnea in Children: What to Look Out For

If you notice that your child is having trouble breathing at night, then it could be a case of sleep apnea. It is estimated that anywhere from 1% to 4% of all children in America have sleep apnea. The issue might range from benign to life-threatening, and should be taken very seriously. Let’s take a look at some of the things you should be looking for if you suspect your child to be suffering from sleep apnea. We’ll also discuss some of the treatments for sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea, Actually?

Sleep apnea is any case when breathing stops for an unexpected reason during sleep. There are different types of sleep apnea, and different causes for it as well. Obstructive sleep apnea is when there’s a blockage either in the throat or nose. One classical example is apnea caused by inflamed tonsils. You then have central sleep apnea which is actually mental. This is when the center responsible for breathing modulation won’t send the signal for some reason.

What are the Common Causes of Sleep Apnea?

We already mentioned things like inflamed tonsils causing sleep apnea, but various other factors can cause it as well. Sleep apnea is a common consequence of childhood obesity, for instance. Some conditions can increase the risk of sleep apnea, like down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or sickle cell disease just to name a few.

When it comes to central sleep apnea, congenital abnormalities, or things like opiate abuse could also cause apnea. In all cases, you’re more at risk if your family has a history of suffering from the disorder.

What are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?

One of the first things you have to look out for is whether your child is snoring a lot. Loud snoring can be a sign of obstructive apnea. You should also check if they choke or cough excessively when they sleep. Other symptoms include sleep terrors, pauses in breathing, strange sleeping positions, or bed-wetting. Also check if they’re fatigued during the day, suddenly fall asleep, or can’t seem to get up in the morning.

What are the Treatment Options?

If your child is suffering from obstructive apnea, the doctor will monitor their condition and the severity. If they notice some sort of blockage in the nose and throat they will refer your child to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist.

If the case is severe and can’t be solved through surgery, chances are your child will be required to sleep with a CPAP machine. Your child’s condition could worsen or get better as they age. This is why their AHI Scores will need to be monitored closely during that time. AHI Scores are a measure of the number of episodes of shallow or interrupted breathing per hour during the night. If the condition worsens, the doctor might try a more aggressive treatment, but if it gets better, your child may not have to sleep hooked up to a machine anymore.


Seeing our child choking up at night can be terrifying as parents, but there’s a solution. It all starts with visiting a doctor today and looking at the different available treatment options.




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