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AAP Issues New Guidelines on Snoring: What Parents Need to Know

Sleep apnea, if left untreated, can lead to serious health, behavioral, and learning problems.

When does snoring signal a problem in kids?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued new guidelines on diagnosing and managing Childhood Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS), commonly referred to as sleep apnea.

The report, published today in the journal Pediatrics, emphasizes that pediatricians should screen all children and adolescents for snoring. Children who snore should be screened for OSAS.

Sleep apnea is a common problem that affects an estimated 2 percent of all children, including many who are undiagnosed, says the AAP. If not treated, sleep apnea can lead to a variety of problems, including heart, behavior, learning, and growth problems.

A separate recent study by the AAP linked persistent snoring with developmental and behavioral problems in preschoolers. Preschoolers with persistent snoring had significantly higher levels of hyperactivity, depression, and inattention.

What do parents need to know? We break it down, below:

What Are the Symptoms of OSAS (Sleep Apnea)?

Symptoms of OSAS can include:

  • Frequent or “habitual” snoring
  • Labored breathing during sleep
  • Disturbed sleep with frequent gasps, snorts or pauses
  • Daytime learning problems such as difficulty paying attention or behavioral problems

If you notice any of these symptoms, the AAP recommends that you let your pediatrician know as soon as possible. It is important for children exhibiting signs of OSAS to get a comprehensive diagnosis by having an overnight, in-laboratory sleep study, called a polysomnogram, done. If left untreated, OSAS can result in problems such as behavioral issues, cardiovascular problems, poor growth and developmental delays.

Who’s Most At Risk?

Children born with other medical conditions, such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or craniofacial (skull and face) abnormalities, are at higher risk for sleep apnea, says the AAP. Children with these conditions may need additional treatments. Overweight children are also more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. Most overweight children will improve if they lose weight, but may need to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) until the weight is lost.

What’s the Treatment?

Treatments are available that can result in significant improvements in these complications. Many children with sleep apnea have larger-than-normal tonsils and adenoids, so surgical removal (adenotonsillectomy) is recommended as the first line of therapy. Obesity can be a risk factor, so physicians may recommend weight loss in addition to other therapies in overweight or obese children. Post-operatively, physicians should continue to monitor children and decide whether other treatment should be considered, such as CPAP.

“A good night’s sleep is important to good health,” says the AAP. “If your child suffers from the symptoms of sleep apnea, talk with your pediatrician. A proper diagnosis and treatment can mean restful nights and restful days for your child and your family.”

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

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