If your baby starts snoring, the best thing to do is to make sure that those noises aren’t an indication of something more serious.
More often than not, snoring babies have stuffy noses. If that is the case, nasal blockages can be cleared up and remedied by using saline drops. As babies grow, the size of their nostrils increase and the problem of snoring usually subsides with age.
But snoring can also indicate more serious issues. If your baby’s snoring continues and worsens after using saline drops, Kerrin Edmonds, a California-based pediatric sleep consultant, recommends recording the sounds with a camera or tape recorder and playing them for your pediatrician.
Snoring as a Symptom
Loud snoring can be a sign of many things, including enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a deviated septum, or even sleep apnea. “Even though snoring is just our body making a sound, it’s usually a symptom of a greater issue and all of the possible issues make it harder for our children to breathe and get quality sleep,” says Edmonds.
Children who habitually snore may not be getting proper deep waves of sleep. Their bodies may wake them up due to labored breathing and the buildup of carbon dioxide within the partially collapsed or blocked airways.
Not only is labored breathing noisy but it impedes proper sleep, causing additional problems. Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to growth and development. It can even lead to things like:
- poor weight gain
- dark circles under their eyes
- ADHD behavior
- night terrors
Dr. Thomas M. Seman, a Massachusetts-based board-certified pediatrician, says parents should be concerned if their children are habitual mouth breathers.
A child who snores, is a poor eater, or not gaining weight well may have significant mouth, throat, lung, or cardiac issues. Many of these issues would most likely be known relatively early on in the child's life, but may develop over the first year.
Any child who is having a hard time sleeping at night, difficulty breathing during the day, gets easily winded, or has a difficult time eating and gaining weight should be fully evaluated by their pediatrician.
Other Serious Illnesses
Unfortunately, snoring can also be a symptom of laryngomalacia. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia defines this as a softening of the tissues of the voice box (larynx) above the vocal cords. The laryngeal structure is malformed and floppy, which causes the tissues to fall over the airway opening and partially block it.
For the very few babies with severe laryngomalacia that interferes with breathing or eating, they can either use a breathing tube or have reconstructive surgery performed. Breathing tubes can occasionally cause infections, which lead to reconstructive surgery as well.
The primary goal of laryngotracheal reconstruction surgery is to establish a permanent, stable airway for a child to breathe without the use of a breathing tube. Surgery can also improve voice and swallowing issues.
Sleep Testing and Other Screenings
While sleep tests are usually recommended for older children, it’s a procedure that could be necessary if a child has abnormal snoring issues that began in infancy.
If your toddler or child needs to undergo sleep tests, or a polysomnogram, The National Sleep Foundation recommends making the most of it. For instance, the parent can sleep in the room with the child, wearing the same pajamas, ordering takeout food, and staying up late. That way, the sleep test will feel more like a slumber party than a medical exam.
Other medical screenings for snoring babies and children include:
- endoscopic exams to provide direct views of the airway
- pulmonary function tests to evaluate the lungs
- CT scans
- MRI tests
- voice and swallowing screenings