The Basics of Snoring in Children: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Last updated: September 5th, 2023

The Basics of Snoring in Children

In the U.S., up to 17% of young children are known to snore occasionally. A few children snore habitually, or three or more times a week. Snoring occurs when tissues in the nose, mouth, or throat vibrate while a sleeping child breathes. Parents and caregivers may be worried if their child is snoring and whether they need medical treatment. If a child is snoring loudly or they snore habitually, they should see a doctor as this may indicate an underlying sleep disorder, like obstructive sleep apnea.

The Varieties of Snoring in Children

Children vary in the frequency and volume of their snoring, as well as in how disruptive it is to their sleep. Some children snore only occasionally, while others snore multiple nights a week. Sleep-disordered snoring carries other noises with it, like loud mouth breathing, coughing, or choking.

Causes of Snoring in Children

Head and neck physical characteristics, family history, and the environment can influence the likelihood of snoring in children. Snoring can also be caused by result of allergies, inflammations, sleep disorders, or other health conditions.

Two common physical causes of snoring in children include enlarged tonsils and adenoids. These tissues form in the throat and behind the nasal cavity. It’s possible for them to be naturally larger than normal, or they may become enlarged after a throat infection or allergies. If the enlarged tissues present health issues, a doctor may suggest surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids.

Obesity is closely related to snoring in children. Fat around the throat can narrow the airway as a child sleeps, leading to snoring and other sleeping issues.

Diagnosing and Treating Snoring in Children

If a child is snoring intensely or frequently, they should be examined by a doctor. During this examination, the doctor will look for underlying causes like OSA. To diagnose OSA, the doctor may perform a physical examination, order blood tests, and have the child undergo a sleep study. They may also recommend lifestyle changes like weight loss or specific treatments like the use of a CPAP machine (a device used to treat sleep apnea). The goal of any treatment plan is to help the child stop snoring and get quality sleep.

Overcoming Snoring in Children

Most cases of childhood snoring can be managed and overcome. If lifestyle changes fail to eliminate snoring, anti-snoring mouthpieces and mouthguards are effective solutions. As a last resort, doctors may recommend surgery or the placement of a small device known as a palatal implant.

If your child is snoring, it’s important to ascertain if it’s just occasional snoring or a symptom of an underlying problem. Contact a doctor to evaluate and suggest suitable solutions for your child’s snoring.

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