Obstructive Apnea

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An obstruction of the airway (such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids) may affect up to three percent of otherwise healthy preschoolers. This is a common type of apnea in children, especially in those who are obese.

Symptoms Snoring is the most common symptom; other signs include color changes, labored breathing or gasping for air during sleep or sleeping in unusual positions. Because obstructive sleep apnea may disturb sleep patterns, these children may wake up sleepy and continue to complain of fatigue and attention problems throughout the day that may affect school performance. One recent study suggests that some children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) actually have attention problems in school because of disrupted sleep patterns caused by obstructive sleep apnea.

Treatment Obstructive apnea can be cured by keeping the child's throat open to improve airflow. This may be done by surgically removing the tonsils and adenoids, or by providing continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP is provided by having the child wear a nose mask while sleeping.

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