Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSA) affects many people. For various functional or medical reasons, babies and children can also be affected.
This breathing disorder, caused by a partial or total obstruction of the upper airway (in the nose or throat), occurs mainly during sleep. It usually manifests itself by pauses in breathing for a few seconds and signs of struggle when breathing is resumed.
Here are some tips to help you spot the warning symptoms and treatments for obstructive sleep apnea in a baby.
Obstructive sleep apnea for babies: symptoms
Signs of obstructive sleep apnea can be seen in babies both at night and while they are awake.
Some examples of symptoms to watch for:
- Heavy, difficult breathing or snoring
- Mouth Breathing
- Restless nights and difficult awakenings
- Abnormal head position during sleep
- Fatigue and crying
If you are unsure, there are online questionnaires and assessments that can help guide you. You can also keep a sleep diary where you can write down all your observations about your baby's sleep.
However, if you suspect that your baby has obstructive sleep apnea, we recommend that you see your pediatrician as soon as possible. He or she will perform the necessary medical tests to identify the cause of the apnea.
Depending on the origin of the obstruction and the degree of severity, he will redirect you to the appropriate health care professional(s) for treatment.
Treating obstructive sleep apnea in babies
Presence of a foreign body in the airway
Since babies tend to discover their environment through touch, it is possible that an object could be accidentally lodged in their nose or throat and interfere with their breathing.
The health professionals will then try to locate it precisely before proceeding with the removal of the foreign body.
They are the main cause of obstructive sleep apnea in babies. Whether functional or infectious, these soft tissues in the throat and nose can swell to the point where breathing is impeded.
The treatment can vary: care, administration of antibiotics and, in the most severe cases, surgery.
Case of premature babies
It is estimated that 25% of premature babies have or have had obstructive sleep apnea.
The lack of maturity of their airways is the main cause. The nose or throat can be up to 2 times smaller than that of a full-term baby, making it difficult for air to get to the lungs.
It is imperative to closely monitor premature infants who are prone to sleep apnea. For most of them, the syndrome naturally disappears as the airway grows.
For those in whom apnea persists, touch stimulation may be sufficient to restore normal breathing. In more severe cases, the premature baby may need respiratory assistance.
Sleep apnea linked to health problems
Some obstructive sleep apneas in babies have their origin in the existence of a disease to be treated.
If this is the case for your newborn, the pediatrician will prescribe the appropriate treatment for the underlying problem:
- Hereditary disease
In babies with obstructive sleep apnea, it is not uncommon for the growth of their teeth and jaws to be affected as they grow.
For example, bad breathing habits or tongue positioning can interfere with the child's dental growth.
If you notice any dental abnormalities in your child, consider making an appointment with a child dentist.
Dr. Adriana Agachi, a pedodontist in Paris, welcomes you to her office for your child's oral exam in a warm and caring environment.
She specializes in the management of anxiety in children and in non-invasive treatments. Do not hesitate to contact us for any information or to make an appointment.