If you've joked with your spouse or other loved ones about your child's freight-train-volume snoring, you may assume your child has inherited this tendency from you or your spouse. While periodic bouts of snoring due to a respiratory infection or cold are typical, regular snoring at a young age often indicates other issues that can require further diagnosis and treatment.
Many children who snore simply aren't getting enough sleep. In fact, some doctors suggest that a lack of high-quality sleep is the real culprit behind the rapid increase in diagnoses of ADD and ADHD among today's schoolchildren.
Read on to learn more about some of the issues that can cause childhood snoring, as well as how an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor can help diagnose and treat these conditions.
Enlarged Tonsils or Adenoids
Because of their location in the back of the throat, chronically enlarged tonsils or adenoids can often cause your child to snore by slightly obstructing the flow of air through their airway.
As your child falls asleep, the muscles in their throat relax, allowing the tonsils to fall backward and create a larger obstruction than when your child is awake. This is the same sort of mechanism that can lead to sleep apnea for adults with enlarged tonsils or excess skin in the back of the throat.
Fortunately, tonsils are deemed just about entirely unnecessary to maintaining good health, and in some cases, can even act as tiny bacteria sponges. Repeated tonsil infections can create tiny crevices in the tonsils' surface, which provide safe harbor to harmful bacteria.
If your child frequently complains of a sore throat or has had a case of strep throat it took several rounds of antibiotics to kick for good, their enlarged tonsils are likely one of the contributing factors.
By having your child's tonsils (and possibly adenoids) surgically removed in a fairly simple outpatient procedure, you may be able to cut down on your child's sick days while also minimizing their sleep disruption from snoring.
Deviated Septum or Other Structural Issue
Whether it's walking face-first into a closed door or becoming involved in a fistfight, adults' noses have often been through a literal beating. Over time, these blows can result in a slightly deviated septum, causing a whistling noise or nighttime snoring as the body attempts to route air to the lungs through a crooked passageway.
While most children are born with a straight septum, an errant kickball to the nose or even just a congenital malformation of the septum can create similar issues, causing nighttime snoring and sleep interruptions.
By wearing a special nose guard or nose strips designed to straighten the septum and improve respiration, your child may be able to significantly improve their sleep quality. More severe cases may require minor surgery to put the septum back in its proper place.
Asthma involves the sudden and involuntary constriction of the airway, and while most asthma attacks happen during the daylight hours, asthma can sometimes strike in one's sleep. When this happens, your child may wake up from a deep sleep literally gasping for air until they can take a few puffs from a rescue inhaler.
Some risk factors for asthma include dust mites, indoor pets, car exhaust and cigarette smoke. Installing a whole-house air filter can help purify the air and reduce the risk of nighttime asthma attacks, as can changing your child's medication regimen to provide more round-the-clock prevention.
If you're still not sure of the cause of your child's snoring, you'll want to contact an ENT for an appointment. One of these specialists can narrow down the culprit and work with you to develop and implement a treatment plan to improve your child's sleep.