Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Apnea is a brief pause in a person’s breathing pattern, usually for about 20 seconds or longer. Everyone has these from time to time; however, sometimes these pauses in breathing can cause problems.
There are several causes for apnea including:
enlarged tonsils or adenoids (glands located in the neck)
congenital abnormalities of the face, neck or throat
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux)
There are three types of apnea: obstructive (very common in children and caused by an obstruction of the airway.), central (least common form of apnea occurs when the part of the brain that controls breathing does not start or maintain breathing properly.) and mixed (combination of obstructive and central and seen mainly in infants and young children who have abnormal control of their breathing).
Obstructive apnea occurs in about 3% of all otherwise healthy preschool-age children. It is most likely to occur during sleep because soft tissue in the throat is most relaxed when you are asleep. Obstructive sleep apnea may disturb sleep patterns and children may be tired during the day. Symptoms of obstructive apnea include snoring, gasping for air, restless sleep and unusual sleeping positions, mouth breathing, weight loss or poor weight gain in infants, behavior problems, bedwetting, and change in color (blue or pale).
To treat obstructive apnea, your child’s doctor may want to perform an adenotonsillectomy (surgical removal of tonsils and adenoids) or may need to use continuous positive airway pressure, which involves having your child wear a nose mask that blows air into the child’s throat while he or she is sleeping.
Central apnea is most commonly seen in premature infants because the respiratory center in the brain is not fully-developed. It is often has a neurological cause and the hospital may send your child home with an apnea monitor. Mixed apnea may appear whether the child is awake or asleep.
Conditions associated with apnea include:
An Apparent Life-Threatening Event (ALTE) is a combination of apnea, change in color, change in muscle tone, choking, or gagging. If you suspect your child is having an ALTE, call 911.
Apnea of Prematurity (AOP) occurs in babies born before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Treatment involves keeping the infants head and neck straight (always place your infant on his or her back to sleep to keep the airways clear), medications to stimulate breathing, and continuous positive airway pressure.
Apnea of infancy (AOI) affects children under 1 who were born after a full-term pregnancy. AOI usually goes away on its own and does not cause significant problems.
If you think that your child may have apnea, contact your doctor to have your child evaluated. Most often, apnea can be treated and in many cases, it goes away on its own.