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Children's snoring may indicate a serious problem

A pediatricians' group urges doctors to screen all children for snoring.
A pediatricians' group urges doctors to screen all children for snoring.  

From Miriam Falco and Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Unit

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Does your child snore? If so, the American Academy of Pediatrics says to pay close attention.

The academy issued new recommendations Monday telling pediatricians to screen all children for snoring because it could be a sign of a serious illness.

Children who snore loudly may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). Left untreated, the disorder can lead to growth, heart and pulmonary problems.

As part of a routine examination of patients older than age 1, the pediatricians' group urges doctors to ask whether the child snores. If the answer is yes, doctors should refer the patient for more tests since chronic snoring is often a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

Tonsils and/or adenoids that are too big usually cause the condition, said Dr. Sally Davidson Ward, a pediatrician and member of the academy's subcommittee on the disorder.

Obesity also can result in problems. Fat deposits around the throat can cause it to constrict, and fat in the stomach can prevent the diaphragm from functioning properly. Some 20 percent to 40 percent of obese children suffer from the syndrome, Ward said.

Ward said 10 percent of children in the United States snore and 2 percent have the disorder.

If a child has obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, he or she may be getting too little oxygen and too much carbon dioxide. The condition can lead to poor heart and lung development as well as behavioral problems and even death if unchecked. Problems are reversible if the disease is caught early.

If a child is found to have the syndrome, the first course of action usually is to remove the adenoids and tonsils, the academy said.

Ward said parents can monitor their children's sleeping and, if they snore, ask the following questions:

  • Is the child snoring every night?
  • Is he or she snoring loudly?
  • Does the child gasp for breath?
  • Is the child restless?
  • Does the child have problems in school, due to fatigue?
  • If the answers to some or most of these questions are yes, pediatricians may use the information to evaluate the child further and recommend more study and possibly surgery.


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