While nearly half of all adults snore occasionally, snoring is not quite so common in children. So if your kids snores, is that cause for concern?
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“On average, just one in 10 kids snore,” says pediatric otolaryngologist Brandon Hopkins, MD. “But that doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem.”
Here, he answers common questions parents ask about children’s snoring:
Q: What might cause a child to snore?
A: The most typical cause of snoring in children has to do with excess, or obstructive, tissue in the throat.
“In children, large tonsils and adenoids are often a source of bulky tissue in the throat and the snoring that results,” Dr. Hopkins says.
Other issues that may cause your child to snore include:
- Throat infections
- Deviated septum (when cartilage divides the nasal passage unevenly, leaving one side narrower)
- Sleep apnea
Q: When is snoring a cause for concern?
A: Talk to your pediatrician if you notice these red flags, which may signal sleep apnea:
- Your child snores most nights of the week.
- You frequently hear snoring during the night.
- The snoring is very noisy.
- Your child routinely sleeps with his or her mouth open, and chin or neck extended.
- You hear your child pause or gasp while sleeping.
“Sleep apnea can lead to daytime fatigue and poor daytime performance, creating concentration or attention issues,” says Dr. Hopkins.
“It’s not common in kids, but when sleep apnea is severe, it can pose health risks for the heart and lungs.”
Q: Are some children more prone to snoring?
A: Yes, says Dr. Hopkins. Overweight children and children born prematurely are more likely to snore. Snoring is also more prevalent in children who have:
- Craniofacial disorders (often from birth defects like cleft palate or cleft lip, or from trauma)
- Certain genetic disorders (such as Down syndrome)
- Some neuromuscular disorders (such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy)
- Sickle cell disease
Q: What information does your pediatrician need to make a diagnosis?
A: Before your child’s visit to the doctor, start a sleep journal. Observe and record your child’s sleep habits, starting about one hour after he or she goes to bed.
“Track how many nights of the week the snoring occurs and whether it happens frequently, or only occasionally, during the night,” Dr. Hopkins advises.
And watch for the five red flags above, he says.
Q: What types of treatment are available?
If the problem is large tonsils or adenoids, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them. If excess weight is an issue, you can work with your pediatrician to help your child lose some weight.
When the underlying problem is sleep apnea, your doctor may suggest weight loss — or possibly surgery.
Once sleep apnea resolves, 90 percent of otherwise healthy children have no further issues, notes Dr. Hopkins.