Is Snoring Dangerous for Babies and Children?

Sleep Safety

No one wants to be told they snore. After all, it’s embarrassing, right? But at the end of the day, we all do it (at least sometimes) and it’s nothing to worry about.

Or is it?

While just under half the world’s adult population snores, according to the National Sleep Foundation that’s not so for kids.

When your young child is snoring, the question needs to be asked: Is snoring dangerous for infants, toddlers, and young children?

What Causes Snoring?

You snore when your body has a lack of air moving through your mouth and nose during sleep. The cause of this can be as simple as a narrowed airway due to an awkward sleep position or abnormalities in the tissues in the throat (think: sickness).

Snoring in and of itself isn’t dangerous at all. It can be annoying when someone else’s keeps you awake, but it’s not dangerous. However, because it’s not common in kids, the cause of it needs to be uncovered.

Depending on why your child is snoring, it can be a warning sign of a deeper cause for concern, or at least diligence.

So if your child is snoring, it’s a good idea to identify why. Here are some common causes:

  • AllergiesIf your child has allergies that can irritate the soft tissue in the throat or cause a stuffy nose that can result in snoring.
  • Respiratory InfectionAnything from a severe cold to pneumonia can make it harder to get air in and out of the lungs, resulting in snoring.
  • Small StructurePerhaps your child has a tiny jaw or airway; ask your pediatrician about this.
  • Enlarged Tonsils (or adenoids)This swelling can reduce airflow, causes your child to snore. And this would need to be looked at by a pediatrician and likely handled by an ENT.

While many of these issues are pretty common (allergies) and others will be handled in time (tonsils), consisted snoring can lead to a more serious issue. That’s why, in 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics decided that all children who snore needed to be screened in case they had something known as sleep apnea, which is a serious condition.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Approximately 1-3% of children have issues breathing during sleep. Of those children, some need to gasp for air or actually stop breathing for short pauses. When this happens, they may have what is identified as sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is the result of the relaxed muscles in the child’s airway relaxing too much during sleep.

When this happens they stop breathing; this could last seconds or up to a minute. When the brain tells the body something is wrong, the body then gasps for air to make up for the loss of oxygen.

Obviously your child isn’t getting a full night’s sleep if this is their cycle during sleeping hours. And that means they are waking up tired, in a bad mood, will have issues focusing and doing well in school and even play, and be unable to handle stress well. They may even present as being hyperactive. Studies correlate loud snoring at night with learning challenges.

Sleep is critically important to a healthy immune system, too, so children who don’t sleep well are often sick more frequently.

Just think of how “off” you feel when you’re not getting the rest you need and imagine what it does to your child who likely doesn’t even understand why. While snoring isn’t the problem, it is your child’s body’s way of asking you for help in finding out what is wrong.

Can You Treat Sleep Apnea?

The good news is that you absolutely can treat it.

It starts, however, with you getting your child they help needed to find the root cause. Some children may simply need a routine tonsillectomy or to have their adenoids removed. Others may need an oxygen mask to help them get enough airflow through their relaxed air passage.

But the good news is that you’re paying attention, you know you need to get help, and the help is there to keep your child safe and healthy.

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