Children do snore, and it is not an uncommon case according to the National Sleep Foundation. In fact, experts in the foundation believe that the statistics might have been increasing in the last two decades. As of 2014, they have estimated that the number of children who snore amounts to more than 6,100,000 or 10% of all children age 0 to 14 in the country.
The Sleep Center of the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) has a significantly higher estimate. Researchers from the university believe that at least 20% of all children from the same bracket or at least 12,000,000 children snore occasionally. Meanwhile, at least 4,200,000 or equivalent to 7% of children in that age bracket snore on a daily basis.
Is snoring in children a cause for concern? It may be if the reason is a sleep disorder. The UCLA Sleep Center says that only 2% or 1,200,000 children in the US have a serious snoring problem that requires medical attention. Nonetheless, falling under normal conditions does not mean it cannot be improved or avoided, especially if the child is at high risk of developing other health conditions because of it.
The seemingly increasing statistics of child snoring has prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002 to advise all pediatricians and parents to subject all children under diagnostic tests for snoring. This is important to determine if a child is at risk or is already requiring medical intervention.
High-risk causes of snoring in children
Sleep disorders are usually considered high-risk or serious causes of child snoring. In general, these disorders lead to the blockage of air passageways, resulting to vibrations that you hear as one snores.
Aside from sleep disorders, infection may also play a role in the presence of snoring. An infection may be treated faster than a sleep disorder, but when taken for granted, can still endanger the life of a child.
1: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This serious sleep disorder requires medical intervention as soon as diagnosed because of the dangers it poses. Children with OSA experience chronic obstruction of airflow until the entire upper respiratory system becomes affected. The snoring that you hear from a child with OSA is a sign that he is already having a hard time breathing.
The obstruction may be partial or temporarily complete. Partial refers to difficulty of breathing while temporarily complete refers to the occasional stopping of breathing but only for a few seconds. Either way, both types of obstruction can be dangerous, whether it is a child or adult involved.
A near-accurate number of affected children cannot be established because there is no standard policy in conducting diagnostic tests. However, many experts believe that as much as 3% or 1,200,000 of all children in the 0 to 9 bracket have it.
The most definitive signs of OSA in children include:
- Grinding of teeth
- Noticeable pauses of breathing
- Temporary absence of breathing
- Restlessness in bed
- Excessive night sweating
- Unusual sleeping positions (e.g. hyperextension of the neck)
- Inward movement of the ribcage when breathing
Some signs might not happen while a child is asleep. These signs include:
- Learning disorders
- Behavioral problems at school
- Unexplainable weight loss
2: Respiratory infection: It is usually nothing too serious, like the common cold, mild allergic attack, or sinus infection. However, it can also be anything life-threatening, like pneumonia, bronchial infection, and severe allergy attack. Specifying the kind of infection is hard to tell without proper medical tests, so you have to be observant of the signs that your child is showing.
The snoring might be due to nasal blockage or throat problem. It may not be worrisome at first, but like any other infection, it can either get well in a few days or worsen.
Some of the signs that imply immediate medical attention are:
- High temperature and fever
- Pain in the sinus and facial muscles
- Rashes and swelling (signs of allergic reaction)
The most common signs are nothing too serious, but they should also be treated as soon as possible. They include:
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
3: Enlarged adenoids and tonsils: This is considered as the most common cause of snoring among children. When these glands swell for some reason, either due to infection or physical damage, the air passageway becomes temporarily blocked, making it hard for the child to breathe normally while asleep.
You might think that this is not as serious as the first two causes, but it may also indicate the development of obstructive sleep apnea. It is manageable and highly treatable at an early stage, but at the advanced stage, surgery might be required.
Some of the most common signs of enlarged adenoids and tonsils include:
- Noticeable enlargement of the glands
- Pain or discomfort in the throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
Low-risk causes of snoring in children
These causes may also be treated or improved with medical intervention. However, they are not as dangerous as the three causes already discussed.
1 – Deviated septum: This is the condition when either of the two nostrils is damaged or slightly deformed. As one nostril does not allow normal inhalation, breathing also becomes more difficult.
This is not really something that you should be worrying about because the problem is just in the nose. However, babies up to age 2 may have a more difficult time coping with this condition.
2 – Nasal polyps: This is more common among children age 10 to 14. It normally does not have any noticeable symptoms aside from snoring. In fact, most children with nasal polyps grow up into adulthood without doing any permanent solution to it, like surgery.
3 – Weak tongue and throat muscles: When the tongue and throat muscles become too relaxed, they collapse inwards into the air passageway, blocking it and making normal breathing almost impossible. This is oftentimes considered as worrying but normal.
Statistics show that your child is not alone in his or her snoring problem. Most people with high-risk causes of snoring also do not die of it. Nevertheless, without medical attention and proper management, snoring can increase the risk of heart problem and lower brain activity. Do not take your child’s snoring for granted. Consult your pediatrician to check if your child’s snoring is something serious or not.