Does Your Child Have Sleep Apnea?

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We knew early on that my daughter would need braces. There was no surprise there. What did come as a surprise for us was that her nighttime mouth-breathing was possibly due to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing is partially or completely blocked repeatedly during sleep.(1)

Prevalence of OSA

Pediatric OSA affects 1-4% of children and can cause a number of symptoms such as poor growth, obesity, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems. Studies have shown that 25% of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is attributed to OSA.(2) OSA is a risk factor for “metabolic syndrome”, a combination of insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity. It can even lead to depression.(3) According to Dr. Kevin Gersten of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, approximately 10% of the population remains undiagnosed for OSA and with the rising rate of obesity, that number is going up. The good news is that OSA diagnosed and treated early enough in children leads to a complete elimination of OSA symptoms in 70 to 90 percent of cases.(2)

Treatment

Although my daughter did not have any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, she was evaluated by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor. He ordered a sleep study which confirmed she had OSA. The most common treatment for OSA is surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids. We opted to do the surgery just before Thanksgiving to allow time for rest without too many missed school days. There’s no denying that this surgery has a very painful two-week recovery, but given the chance for her to breathe normally, the decision was clear for us.

Recovery

Most children lose weight that first week post surgery because of the pain and difficulty eating. Hydration is critical though, so offer beverages they will tolerate and foods with a high moisture content.

Foods to help soothe the throat:

  • Popsicles - skip the Otter Pops. They are loaded with artificial color and high-fructose corn syrup. Look for popsicles with simple ingredients such as fruit and cane sugar. Whole Foods 365 Fruit bars are a good choice. Avoid citrus flavors though as they irritate the throat.

  • Ice cream - this one has stood the test of time! Offer ice cream that doesn’t have any pieces in it like chocolate chips, nuts, or anything hard that could hurt when swallowing.

  • Apple sauce - so easy to make! Core and peel the skin of an apple, cut into wedges and place in a pot with just enough water to cover the apples. I added a sprinkle of cinnamon. Boil on low for 15 min and blend until smooth.  

  • Oatmeal

  • Soggy cereal - I’m not a big fan of cereal in general but definitely made an exception for these past two weeks. Let the cereal sit in the milk for a few minutes to get soft. Cascadian Farms has an organic O-shaped cereal (like Cheerios)

  • Pancakes - you can puree berries and add it in the batter to make them a little more nutritious

  • Smoothies - add fruits and greens here to make it more nutrient-dense

  • Soft boiled eggs

  • Broth with silken tofu and rice noodles - I added turmeric, garlic, and a little ginger to soothe the inflammation

  • Kichardi - lentils and rice boiled together

  • Overcooked pasta, marinara with pureed vegetables

If you have a child who is breathing through the mouth at night or snoring, do have him or her checked by an ENT. We used Dr. Kevin Gersten of Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Dublin and highly recommend him.