Obstructive sleep Apnea (OSA) is a sleep-related breathing disorder affecting 2% to 6% children of all ages and even newborns with enlarged tonsils and adenoids. It is not easily detectable, and can lead to cardiovascular disorders.

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Common symptoms in children include:

  • Bed wetting
  • Choking or drooling
  • Excessive sweating at night
  • Ribcage moves inward when they exhale
  • Learning and behaviour disorders
  • Problems at school
  • Sluggishness or sleepiness (often misinterpreted as laziness in the classroom)
  • Snoring
  • Teeth  grinding
  • Restlessness in bed
  • Pauses or absence of breathing

Pulmonologists advice consulting a doctor if your child has any of the above symptoms as he or she could be at risk of suffering from sleep apnea.

Dr Srikanth, consultant paediatric pulmonologist at the Apollo Hospital said: “If untreated, OSA can disrupt far more than a family’s peaceful day and night. Affected children simply don’t get enough restorative sleep required for normal development. The condition can result in hyperactivity and attention problems that are often mistaken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sometimes mistreated with a stimulant, which only makes matters worse. Such kids can be excessively sleepy during the day. A child’s memory, cognitive development, ability to learn and IQ too could suffer. Daytime irritability isn’t uncommon either.”

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He added that “Milder cases may respond to the use of a steroidal nasal spray and oral anti-inflammatory medication. Surgical removal of overly enlarged tonsils and adenoids (AdenotonsillectomyT&A) is required only in moderate to severe cases. Despite treatment, obese children and 20% to 25% of normal children could still show symptoms of OSA. Such kids need to use a mask attached to a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine to help keep their airways open during sleep.”

Dr Anil Sapare is a consultant paediatric pulmonologist at Narayana Health City. He treats 8 to 12 patients with sleep apnea every month. In his own words:

“Such conditions aren’t without a sequel. Absence of proper intervention could lead to complications affecting the cardiovascular system. It may cause growth retardation and pulmonary hepatition (increased blood pressure in vessels that supply oxygen to our lungs). In some children, it could also lead to systemic hepatition and early or adult onset of cardiovascular diseases.”

“According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sleep apnea is independently associated with an increased risk of stroke, cardiac disease and death. Mortality rate is four times higher if the condition is left untreated,” added Dr Vivek Anand Padegal, consultant pulmonologist at Fortis Hospital.



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