It's sweet to see a young child gently snoring. But when the snoring gets louder -- especially in infants -- it's time to take action.
Snoring in infants
Snoring is always abnormal in very young children. The most common causes are sinusitis or adenoid enlargement. Sinusitis is treated with antibiotics and decongestants; adenoid enlargement treated with surgery (removal of tonsils and adenoids). Also possible is choanal atresia, a congenital closure of the back of the nose which also requires surgery for correction. Allergies are almost never present in infants.
Snoring in children
If your child snores, be alert for signs of obstructive sleep apnea (periods of not breathing, typically followed by a gasp or snort). But sleep apnea is much more subtle in children since true apnea rarely occurs. So parents should be looking for behavioral symptoms which may indicate a sleep disorder: these include hyperactivity, ADHD, poor school performance, snoring, mouth breathing, bedwetting
and eating slowly (because it is hard to chew and breathe at
the same time).
A 2005 study, conducted at the Chinese University in Hong
Kong, found that 23% of snoring children had poor
academic records compared to 13.5% of those who did not
snore. The snorers were more likely to be bad tempered, with
35% having poor temper control, 75% higher than non-snorers.
Recent research suggests that some children who are medicated for ADHD might be better served if their sleepiness and snoring were addressed first. If your child does show signs of sleep apnea, it is very possible that the cause is tonsil and/or adenoid enlargement. The treatment is surgery to remove the offending tonsils and adenoids, and this has been shown to be extremely effective in solving the problem.
As with adults, our advice is to never ignore snoring. Backing up this view are findings that children with lower academic performance in middle school are more likely to have snored during early childhood. Young children who snore are also likely to suffer from asthma and nighttime cough. The researchers hypothesize that a "learning debt" may develop with Sleep Disorder Breathing during early childhood and hamper subsequent school performance. For more details, see our recent newsletter.
Snoring and Asthma: Snoring may be an early indicator of asthma in children. A study in the journal Chest found that 40% of pre-school children who snored and then developed a nighttime cough were ultimately diagnosed with asthma.