Sleep apnea, common in children under 5 years

The IMSS pulmonologist in Jalisco, Rubén Santoyo Ayala, said that sleep apnea, characterized by a temporary cessation of breathing while sleeping, is a disorder that also affects the pediatric population, primarily children between two and five years old.

He estimated that in Mexico up to 5% of infants present this problem associated with factors such as obesity, overweight and malformations or alterations of the oral cavity (uvula, palate or pharynx), as well as hypertrophy of the tonsils or even throat tumors.

Snoring is … normal?

Snoring is one of the characteristics of this disorder, so between 9% and 12% of children snore, and of these up to 10% suffer from sleep apnea.

In children, snoring and other manifestations may indicate the presence of the problem, such as irritability, hyperactivity, poor school use and bedwetting, cyanosis (enlargement of the lips or fingers), large tonsils and altered breathing patterns.

The specialist said that another fact is the so-called sleep latency. “If the child takes less than five minutes to sleep, this is latency and if he is overweight or obese, there is a great suspicion that it is apnea, it is normal for a [child] to fall asleep after five or 10 minutes of getting to bed, “he said.

In a child, apnea can have severe effects, such as tachycardia (excessive increase in heart rate), and / or bradycardia (decreased heart rate), high blood pressure, and even arrhythmias.

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose apnea in the child, the occurrence of a breathing interruption of between six and 10 seconds within one hour should be identified.

Sleep apnea is also common in children with Down Syndrome or Prader Willi Syndrome, in addition to those born with cleft lip and palate.

In many cases an option for the treatment of apnea in children is the removal of the tonsils, however in some patients there may be recurrence.

In the majority (up to 80%) of children, the problem is solved with the control and stabilization of body weight and with the use of the specialized instrument called CPAP (20% of patients).

CPAP consists of a mask that is used at bedtime and provides a more continuous flow of air, resulting in better and more oxygenated, which prevents episodes of apnea.

Sleep apnea in children is a cause of absenteeism and poor school performance, coupled with the fact that in newborns and in the stage of breastfeeding can lead to the so-called cradle death, since improper bedding contributes to obstruct the passage of air For the buco-nasal path.

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