The boy in the "America's Funniest Home Videos" clip was snoring -- loudly. The studio audience laughed and someone said, "Look, it's almost like an old man."
But what the audience didn't realize is that the boy was suffering
from severe sleep apnea, said Carole L. Marcus, director of The Sleep
Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Snoring is no laughing matter.
"Snoring is something that people often don't take seriously, but it
could be a symptom of a very serious underlying condition," Marcus said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines in
September that recommend all children be screened for snoring each time
they visit their pediatrician. Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea,
which can cause major health and behavioral problems in children, but it
is often ignored in regular health screenings.
Marcus led the team of researchers who reviewed more than 3,000
studies before they issued the new standards, which will be adopted by
pediatricians across the United States.
"I can tell you from my clinical experience how many children fall
through the cracks," Marcus said. "Sleep apnea is incredibly
underdiagnosed in kids."
Sleep apnea causes repetitive interruptions in breathing while a
person is asleep. Children suffering from the condition are often
irritable and sleepy during the day, wake up with headaches and have
trouble learning, focusing and retaining information, Chattanooga
physician Anuj Chandra said.
"Parents need to make it a point to watch and listen to their
children while they are sleeping," he said. "They definitely need to pay
attention to snoring just as they pay attention to height and weight,
and bring it up with their pediatrician."
Between 2 and 5 percent of kids suffer from sleep apnea, Chandra
said. But a much lower percentage are actually diagnosed and receive
treatment. Statistically, for every five children diagnosed with asthma,
at least one should be diagnosed with sleep apnea.
"We all know, 'Oh this kid has asthma,'" Chandra said. "But how often
do you know this kid has sleep apnea? It's not that often."
The American Academy of Pediatrics new guidelines are aimed at
closing that gap, Chandra said. The guidelines suggest pediatricians ask
children and their parents about snoring in the same way they'd ask
about immunizations or exercise patterns.
"It's one quick question," Marcus said. "Then if they say yes they do
snore, the pediatrician should take a more detailed history and
examination. And if that suggests sleep apnea, they should confirm it
with a sleep study."
The most common treatment for sleep apnea in children is removing the
child's tonsils, Marcus said, but some children need to use a
continuous positive airway pressure machine. The machine pumps air
through a tube and a mask into the child's airway.
"It's the opposite of a vacuum," she said. "A vacuum sucks out air,
this machine blows air. If you think of the throat as a balloon, if you
keep air going through the balloon it will keep it open."
Chandra said the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation is a groundbreaking step for pediatric sleep medicine.
"It's a big deal because it shows that they recognize the importance
of sleep disorders in children," he said. "It's a big change, and it's
an important one."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at email@example.com or 423-757-6476.
Re-blogged from timesfreepress.com