(NEW YORK) — Medical experts are warning parents that if you hear your young son or daughter snoring, it could potentially be a sign that the child is suffering from sleep apnea.
“It should raise a flag,” Dr. Sydney Butts, an ear, nose and throat doctor in New York City told ABC News. “You should think about watching some other signs and symptoms that may kind of sound the alarm.”
“It’s not a problem restricted to adults,” Butts added of sleep apnea. “It’s actually one of the most common reasons why children need their tonsils or adenoids removed.”
If untreated, sleep apnea can lead to chronic heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity and other health problems, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA).
Kevin and Amanda Cook told ABC News that three months after they brought home their infant son, Caden, he started to have episodes during which he would stop breathing. They later learned that he had sleep apnea.
Amanda Cook said she watched as her child became “just completely limp, non-responsive.”
Cook said she’d have to “hold him and say, ‘Caden, Caden, Caden.’ “
“Finally, you know, he’d start breathing,” she said. “And it just got worse and worse.”
When Caden was 6 months old, the Cooks took him to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, California, to undergo a sleep study. Doctors there diagnosed Caden with both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something is blocking your airway, such as your tonsils. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, according to ASAA.
Sleep apnea is not uncommon in newborns, but even after Caden was past the infant stage, he was still not getting better. His tonsils were not enlarged, so doctors did not recommend surgery, his parents said.
Symptoms of sleep apnea in children include snoring, hyperactivity, trouble focusing in school, depression or anger, and even bed wetting. Some of these symptoms can often be confused with those of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to Butts.
“Many kids” may get labeled as being hyperactive, Butts said. “And I think it’s important to look at a variety of different causes that could be contributing to that. It may not be that sleep is the only cause, but if there’s a worry about the child’s sleep, it should definitely be investigated.”
ABC News Senior Medical Contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton said the fact that sleep apnea can be misdiagnosed as ADHD in children speaks to the importance of sleep for your overall health. She added that sleep apnea can be treated with a CPAP machine, which forces air into your mouth and keeps your airways open as you sleep.
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