Rhonda Patt

Ask the Pediatrician: Snoring is common in children, but sometimes it means something more serious

Most snoring causes no problem in children. However, about 2 percent of children require treatment for more serious issues.
Most snoring causes no problem in children. However, about 2 percent of children require treatment for more serious issues. OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Q. Our 4-year-old son snores at night. Sometimes he sounds like he’s having a hard time catching his breath. He seems tired during the day. Is there anything we can do to help him?

A. Snoring is common in children, and most snoring causes no problems. However, about 2 percent of children do require treatment for more serious issues.

If a child has intermittent snoring associated with colds or gentle nightly snoring, there is most likely no reason for concern. On the other hand, chronic, loud, harsh, disruptive snoring is more worrisome.

Some potential causes: enlarged tonsils and adenoids, allergies and obesity. The first step to treating snoring is to identify and treat any of these underlying conditions.

Snoring can also be a sign of a more serious problem called obstructive sleep apnea. Children with obstructive sleep apnea may gasp or have breathing pauses during sleep. Other signs include daytime sleepiness, behavioral issues and attention problems.

Occasionally, children will need to undergo a sleep study. Some children may need to see an ear, nose and throat surgeon to have their tonsils and adenoids evaluated and removed if necessary.

Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic. Email living@charlotteobserver.com; put “pediatrician” in the subject line.

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