Snoring is something that is usually associated with adults, particularly men, however it is also a common complaint in children.
We snore when the muscles of our airway relax too much during sleep and vibrate when air passes in and out.
According to paediatrician Dr Megan Yap, snoring in children can occur if they have a persistently runny nose or a history of allergy/eczema/asthma.
“Sometimes this can mean the snoring is caused by inflammation/engorgement of the nasal mucosa caused by allergy (e.g dust, pollens, animal hair etc). In this case, a GP can recommend an antihistamine or a steroid nasal spray that can help,” explains Dr Yap.
This type of inflammation can also cause a child to snore when they have a cold or respiratory tract infection.
However, it is when a child snores persistently without these symptoms present that it can be a sign of other underlying problems.
I have two chronic snorers – my 11 yo son and 4 yo daughter. To be honest, it wasn’t until I noticed my daughters snoring and mentioned it to our GP that I became aware of the implications of regular snoring in children.
One such issue is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which is a condition that results in breathing difficulties during sleep. Other symptoms of OSA can include being restless and sweaty during sleep, as well as gasping, snorting or choking. Daytime fatigue, headaches and irritability can also be signs.
However, of the estimated, 15-20% of children who snore, only 2-3% have obstructive sleep apnoea.
So when should parents be concerned about their child’s snoring?
Dr Yap says there are a few situations where she would refer a snoring child to another specialist such as a Paediatric Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. These include:
- If the parent notices pauses in the child’s breathing when sleeping
- If the child was waking up tired (or are difficult to get out of bed in the morning) or are really tired during the day (either self-reported or the teacher might have reported)
- If the snoring occurs in the context of known large tonsils and/or recurrent tonsillitis
- If there are reported problems with behaviour, attention/concentration and social interactions
- If the child seems frequently irritable or aggressive, or if they seem to have a mood disturbance
- In the setting of persistent bed wetting
- If they are a mouth breather
If your child exhibits any of these issues in conjunction with snoring, talk to your GP or paediatrician.
In the case of my snorers, who tick a number of these boxes, we are off to the ENT in the near future. Hopefully then we will all sleep a little easier!
Is your child a snorer?