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Sleep Apnea and Underweight in Children


When we hear about sleep apnea, often we imagine the “typical” sleep apnea patient. Usually male, over the age of 50, generally obese or overweight, and someone who lives a high-stress lifestyle. But often, sleep apnea affects those who do not fit into this demographic, namely children.  Children present a unique case because they often don’t fit some of those stereotypical parameters that adults with sleep apnea do. For example, many children with sleep apnea are not overweight. In fact, according to a new study from UT Southwestern, children with sleep apnea could in fact be underweight. Here’s why it’s cause for concern.


Underweight in children poses its own unique set of risks, namely that underweight children may not be getting the nutrients they need to grow. But a child with sleep apnea and underweight has their own unique struggles. In this recent study, researchers found that underweight children with sleep apnea may have decreased height for their age, and may also suffer from one or both of the medical conditions allergic rhinitis and tonsilar hypertrophy. Both of these conditions can cause great discomfort in children.


The study concluded that children with these conditions be screened by a physician for sleep apnea through the use of sleep polysomnography, a common series of tests used by clinicians to diagnose sleep apnea.


So, what can a sleep apnea diagnosis do for children? For starters, it can help them get a more restful night’s sleep, which is important for growing children. Second, it may help reduce signs and symptoms of other conditions, including underweight, allergic rhinitis, and tonsilar hypertrophy.


If you notice your child is underweight, or if they suffer from sinus or tonsil problems, speak to their physician about getting screened. While some children outgrow sleep apnea as they age, some others could carry the condition into adulthood, causing future problems including heart problems, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.


For questions about sleep apnea at any age, please speak to Dr. Peterson. Dr. Peterson offers sleep orthotics for adult patients that can replace CPAP therapy and is found by most patients to be more comfortable. For more information, please contact the office today.

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