My daughter is only six, but she snores and gasps when she is sleeping. Is it possible for a child to have sleep apnea? If so, what can we do? I don't want her to undergo a major surgery when she is so young. How is sleep apnea best treated in children?
Doctors Answers (4)
Sleep apnea should be treated at any age. The best treatment for her will depend on the severity of her problem. Many children respond well to CPAP.
Obstructive sleep apnea in children is most often related to obstruction of the airway due to enlargement of the tonsils, and is often eliminated with a tonsillectomy. A tonsillectomy is not a major surgical procedure, but there is post-operative discomfort which should be addressed by the ENT surgeon. Six years of age is not too young to be evaluated for sleep apnea. Central Sleep Apnea, on the other hand, is totally different and is usually secondary to either injury to the brain respiratory center or reduced blood flow to the center secondary to heart disease or circulatory problems. Pain medication can also produce central sleep apnea. Snoring, however, is most likely related to obstructive sleep apnea.
If the sleep apnea is mild, then medical treatment can be tried. For most kids though, the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged and must be removed. Watchful waiting to see if they outgrow it was recently shown to cause irreversible cognitive declines c/w timely surgery. Get evaluated by a board-certified sleep doctor sooner than later for a sleep test to see just how significant the problem is.
Sleep apnea can be seen in children of all ages, and snoring and gasping during sleep are among the hallmark signs of this disorder. You are wise to question what you are observing, as sleep apnea can have significant health consequences. In many cases, sleep apnea in children is related to tissue obstructions of the upper airway. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids often play a role. If your child is overweight, that also may be a contributing factor. It is appropriate to raise these questions with your pediatrician, who will direct you to the most appropriate specialist, which will most likely be a board-certified sleep specialist or an ear nose and throat specialist. A thorough evaluation will determine the proper course of treatment.