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When to Worry About a Child Snoring

When adults snore, there are a variety of factors that we use to determine whether or not the snoring is indicative of a larger health issue. In children, it can be more difficult to discern if the snoring is a sign of something more worrisome. Snoring can have causes not related to underlying health conditions, and may happen as a result of a stuffy nose, allergies, or a cold. In this case, it is likely that snoring occurs because the sinuses are blocked, and the resulting nasal blockage causes mouth breathing, which can lead to snoring. Typically, this will resolve in time as your child’s health improves. In other situations, snoring is a result of an anatomical abnormality like enlarged tonsils and adenoids, or a deviated septum. For many children who have enlarged tonsils, their swollen glands block their airway and make it difficult to breathe comfortably while they are sleeping. In children with a deviated septum, which occurs when the airway of two nostrils is offset in one direction, it is difficult to breathe through the nose because of the reduced airflow in the smaller of the two nostrils. In these situations, surgery or a special sleeping device can help correct the problem. In rarer cases, your child may be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a serious condition that restricts airflow through the upper respiratory system and makes breathing especially challenging. Only about 3% of children between ages 1-9 have the condition, but because of its seriousness it’s important to diagnose and treat early. If you notice any of the following in your child, he or she may suffer from OSA. Talk to your pediatrician immediately if your child:

  • Snores more than 3 nights per week

  • Sweats profusely during sleep

  • Is restless, moves frequently at night, or sleeps in abnormal positions with their head tipped backward

  • Has interruptions in their breathing in the forms of gasps, snorts, or pauses longer than 10 seconds, or is woken from sleep by these interruptions

  • Frequently wets the bed

  • Is excessively sleepy during the day

  • Falls asleep during the day or daydreams habitually

  • Suffers from irritability and crankiness or is unusually agitated or aggressive during the day

  • Struggles to wake up in the morning

  • Speaks nasally or breathes primarily through their mouth

Your pediatrician may suggest:

  • Allergy/sinus medications

  • A referral to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist who can determine if your child needs to have their tonsils and adenoids removed

  • Removing possible allergens from their bedroom such as feathery pillows or comforters, pets, or stuffed animals

  • A sleep specialist, who will conduct an overnight sleep study to determine if your child suffers from OSA

In children and adults, snoring- even if it seems mild or inconsequential- can cause a variety of health and wellness problems. That’s why it’s important to talk to your pediatrician about your child’s snoring, even if it seems minor. For questions or more information on worrisome snoring in children, contact Marvel Clinic at 615-329-3900.

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