Obstructive sleep apnea treatment is based on the cause. Because enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common cause of airway blockage in children, the treatment is surgery and removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and/or adenoids (adenoidectomy) usually is the recommended first line treatment. An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist will make the evaluation for such surgery. Other types of surgery are occasionally needed in children with craniofacial abnormalities. Weight loss and treatment of other medical problems such as nasal allergies may also be helpful in the management of obstructive sleep apnea.
In cases where surgery is not adequate or not indicated for various reasons, another effective treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). “Your child would wear a mask over the nose during sleep,” says pediatric pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist Dharmeshkumar Suratwala, MD, of Lehigh Valley Health Network. “ The mask is attached to a machine that blows air through the nasal passages and into the airway. This air pressure keeps the airway open and allows your child to breathe normally during sleep.”
If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can cause poor growth ("failure to thrive"), high blood pressure and heart problems. It can also affect behavior and cognition. Therefore, it is important your child be evaluated and treated in a timely fashion.
In all cases, the specific treatment for obstructive sleep apnea depends on many factors and is tailored for each child. Please discuss your child's condition, treatment options and your preference with your child's physician or health care provider, or a pediatric sleep specialist.