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Snoring and Sleep Apnoea (Breathing Problems During Sleep)

Snoring is a surprisingly common problem in children. It happens when the soft palate and tissue in the mouth, nose or throat vibrates. The causes for snoring in children can be different to adults, so if your child is snoring a lot you may wish to put your mind at ease by speaking to one of our ear, nose and throat specialists.

Infections and allergies

Childhood snoring may be caused by an infection, such as a cold or flu, or an allergy. When a child's nose becomes blocked this can restrict their airways and cause a 'rattling' sound when they breathe. This type of snoring usually stops once the infection or allergic reaction has passed. Infections often go away on their own, or can be treated easily with antibiotics.

If your child has allergies it's a good idea to talk to one of our ear, nose and throat specialists, as they'll be able to diagnose the exact cause and recommend the right treatments to help.


Enlarged tonsils or adenoids

The tonsils are two small glands at the back of the throat and the adenoids are a lumpy patch of tissue at the back of the throat. They help prevent infections from reaching the rest of a child's body by trapping any inhaled bacteria. This is the reason why children are more likely to get tonsillitis than adults.

When a child's tonsils or adenoids become infected they may become swollen. This swelling can restrict airflow and cause snoring. Most childhood infections affecting the tonsils or throat will go away on their own or with antibiotics. The snoring should stop once the infection has gone. However, if your child is getting recurring tonsil infections the best treatment may be to remove them. This is a routine surgery and our paediatric ear, nose and throat surgeons are highly experienced in it.


Sleep apnoea (breathing problems during sleep)

Snoring may be a symptom of sleep apnoea. This is a condition where you stop breathing when you're asleep - just for a moment. Although sleep apnoea in a child can be frightening for a parent, the child doesn't usually remember it happening. Swollen or infected tonsils and adenoids often cause sleep apnoea in children.
The treatment for sleep apnoea depends on its cause. The first thing our ear, nose and throat specialist will do is examine your child's throat to see if their tonsils or adenoids are infected or swollen. In most cases, any infection will go away on its own or with antibiotics. Occasionally, the tonsils may need to be removed to treat the problem.

Our ear, nose and throat specialists may also suggest a sleep study. This is where your child spends a night in hospital and the specialists monitor their breathing and heart rate while they sleep. This test will help them understand the cause of your child's sleep apnoea and allow them to suggest the best treatment.