Slumped in car seats or tucked in bed, most children will snore from time to time. It’s when the sound grows constant, sharper and louder that attentive parents become concerned. There are several underlying conditions that can cause loud snoring in children, and Pediatric ENT of Oklahoma had created a guide to help you decide if you want to consult a specialist.
When Should I Be Concerned?
A quiet, occasional snore is typical for a child, especially if they’ve caught a cold or have fallen asleep sitting upright. If your child snores more than three nights a week and experiences some of these accompanying signs, however, you may consider consulting an ENT.
Breathing and Sounds
- Loud, grating snores
- Gasping or snorting
- Light wheezing or squeaking, called stridor
- Breathing pauses for over ten seconds
- Holding the neck in elongated or awkward positions
- Waking frequently during the night
Other Nighttime Signs
- Profuse night sweats
- Frequent bed wetting
- Sleepwalking and night terrors
- Difficulty waking
- Daytime sleepiness
- Learning, social and behavioral problems
- Nasal speech
- Mouth breathing
- Abnormally frequent ear and sinus infections
- Constant stuffy nose or sore throat
What Causes Problematic Snoring in Children?
A snore is an unpleasant din created by our full, sleepy breathing intermingling with our deep, full body relaxation. If there are crooked, loose, weak, excess or stressed tissues that relax and block our breathing, they constrict our incoming air and make it vibrate the tissues in our upper airway.
In children, the most common culprits are:
- Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Deviated septum
Allergies are triggered when body treats otherwise harmless substances, like ragweed pollen and leaf mold spores, as a threat. It releases an inflammatory compound called histamine in response, and upper respiratory problems are typical symptoms.
All of those swollen structures can easily constrict your child’s airways at night. If your child’s doctor suspects allergies, he may recommend allergy testing, offer advice on reducing allergens in the home and prescribe antihistamines.
Tonsils and Adenoids
When we breathe in bacteria and viruses, we rely on our tonsils and adenoids, our built-in filters, set off an early immune response and start fighting them off. For some children, their tonsils are overenthusiastic. They swell frequently, and because they’re positioned near the airway, symptoms like snoring are common.
Children with chronic tonsillitis often benefit from having them removed. However, because allergies are a common tonsillitis trigger, your child’s doctor may prescribe antihistamines to try to reduce symptoms first.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Children have softer, weaker throat tissues that are more prone to collapsing under the force of their nighttime breathing, especially if there is an exacerbating factor. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) describes any condition were a physical blockage is causing your child to stop breathing for more than 10 seconds at a time during the night.
Enlarged tonsils are the leading cause of OSA in children, but other factors can come into play as well. Smaller facial structures, obesity, cleft palate and conditions that impact muscle tone can all play a role. Your child’s doctor can help find the root cause.
Running down the middle of your nose is a wall of cartilage and bone called the septum. Most people’s septum leans a little bit towards one side or the other, but some people have a more severe tilt that can block proper air flow. This is known as a deviated septum.
Children with severely deviated septums may snore, have frequent sinus and ear infections on one side or only be able to breathe comfortably through one nostril. Treating exacerbating conditions, like allergies, can help reduce symptoms, but corrective surgery may be indicated as well.
If your child’s snoring is squeaky, or your can hear a slight squeak even in their daytime breathing, a condition called laryngomalacia could be the cause. Laryngomalacia is caused by weak or improperly supported vocal cords blocking the airway, causing the distinctive squeaking sound called stridor.
Laryngomalacia is most apparent in infants aged 4 to 8 months. Up to 90% of children will grow out of it as their body grows and strengthens, and minimal treatment is required. In a small portion of children, surgical intervention is necessary to treat severe sleep apnea or to correct lingering concerns in older children.
If you have concerns about your child’s snoring, Pediatric ENT of Oklahoma is here to help. Call today for more information or to schedule an appointment.