Apnea in Children – Does Your Child Have It?

November 12, 2012

Apnea in Children - Does Your Child Have It?

Apnea in children happens when the child suddenly stops breathing for at least 20 seconds. Usually, this condition is accompanied by a lower heart rate, as well. Although it is common for children to have several pauses between breaths, not breathing for 20 seconds or more could be fatal for them. Apnea is more common in premature infants and there are various causes for it out there.

What are the Different Kinds of Apnea?

In general, there are three kinds of apnea in children: central apnea, which is caused by the part of the brain responsible for breathing control; obstructive apnea, which occurs when adenoids or enlarged tonsils are in the way of the child’s breathing; and mixed apnea, which is basically a combination of the two previously mentioned kinds.

A List of Apnea Symptoms

- Pauses between breathing

- Snoring – Changes in skin color

- Interrupted sleeping patterns

- Labored breathing

- Fatigue or irritability throughout the day

- Bedwetting

- Gasping for air

A List of Apnea Causes

- Adenoids or enlarged tonsils

- Obesity

- Congenital abnormalities of the throat, neck or face

- Specific medications

- Prematurity

-Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)

- Apparent life-threatening events (ALTE)

How Can Apnea be Treated?

In general, the treatment for apnea in children includes monitoring the condition itself. Premature infants that experience the condition in the hospital itself will usually be sent home with an apnea monitor, which will sound an alarm whenever an apnea episode occurs or whenever the child’s heart rate slows down. Naturally, the parents will be given instructions on what they have to do if an episode occurs, how to alter the monitor’s leads and how to give their children CPR, just in case. Other treatments for apnea in children may include medications like caffeine, though children who have obstructive apnea might have to go through surgery to treat their adenoids or enlarged tonsils. Conversely, some children can just go through Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment, which basically entails giving the child a mask to wear every night as they sleep. This mask will then blow air into the child’s throat at an appropriate pressure to keep it open and prevent anything from obstructing their airways as they sleep. Unfortunately, not a lot of children can tolerate this treatment.

Can Apnea Bring about Other Problems, Too?

Some children who have apnea might experience low muscle tone, too, as well as other neurological problems. Infants are more prone to experience failure to thrive, though, because they use up more energy just to breathe and thus burn up more calories. Other related problems to apnea would include irritability and a low attention span. If your child doesn’t sleep well, this might affect his behavior, as well. If you are considered about apnea in children, then please get in touch with your pediatrician right away.

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