While sleep apnea is more common in adults, this condition can also affect children. Knowing what symptoms to look for and when to get your child evaluated can help your child sleep better and correct the cause of sleep apnea before they are an adult. At Ralhan Dental, we work with parents and local physicians to help manage your child’s sleep apnea and prevent the condition from causing long-term health problems.
Causes Of Sleep Apnea in Children
Much like adults, children face sleep apnea due to risk factors like excess weight and a family history of sleep apnea. However, muscle and skeletal development also play a role in increasing a child’s risk of developing sleep apnea. Childrens’ jaws and mouths are still developing, so factors, including enlarged tonsils or adenoids, jaw size, and tooth position can increase the likelihood a child will suffer from pediatric sleep apnea.
Certain medical conditions, including Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy, can increase a child’s risk of developing sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms To Look For
Just as sleep apnea is difficult to diagnose in adults, identifying sleep apnea in children is also challenging. Kids often have a hard time expressing what is wrong and in many instances, the symptoms are misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD. Knowing how sleep apnea affects children’s daily life is important in helping your child get the care they need as soon as possible.
Symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea that we encourage parents to look out for include:
- Deep snoring with pauses and snorts
- Heavy breathing when sleeping
- Restless sleep and/or sleeping in unusual positions, often with the neck extended.
- Daytime sleepiness and difficulty focusing on school or behavioral problems
In school-age children with sleep apnea, daytime fatigue can be misinterpreted as disruptive behavior in school or daydreaming. If your child’s teacher brings up these behaviors, we recommend bringing them for a sleep apnea evaluation.
What are my Child’s Sleep Apnea Treatment Options?
Getting the appropriate treatment early on is the best method of managing your child’s sleep apnea. In most instances, your child will be able to use a CPAP machine with an appropriately sized mask. Given the long-term health consequences of childhood sleep apnea, it’s important that parents also explore more comprehensive treatment solutions. If your child’s OSA is the result of a jaw that is too small, our Ontario dentists will work with your child’s orthodontist to form a treatment plan. Diet changes and exercise may also be recommended to help treat the underlying causes of sleep apnea. If tonsil size is the leading cause of sleep apnea, your child’s physician may recommend removal.
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Outgrowing Sleep Apnea
When it comes to treating sleep apnea, early intervention and treatment can help prevent problems with growth and ensure healthy development. Dr. Ralhan works closely with parents and local sleep specialists to ensure children with sleep apnea get the best care possible. Contact our offices at Cornerstone Dental or Oak Park Dental today to schedule your child’s consultation!