Breathing device helps kids with sleep apnea

Children and adolescents with obstructive sleep apnea fared much better in terms of attention, anxiety and quality of life after treatment with positive airway pressure (PAP).

It delivers a stream of air through a mask into the nose. Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is a condition of interrupted breathing caused by a narrowing in the throat or upper airway, related to large tonsils, obesity or other medical problems. 

Using PAP commonly relieves OSAS in adults, among whom it has been studied extensively. However, there have been few studies of PAP in children with OSAS, the American Journal of Respiratory and Clinical Care Medicine reports. 

"The benefits occurred even when children didn't fully adhere to the treatment," said study leader Carole L. Marcus, sleep specialist and director of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. 

The Sleep Center follows thousands of children and adolescents with sleep problems, according to a Children's Hospital statement. 

"The vast majority of children with OSAS undergo surgery on their tonsils and adenoids instead of receiving PAP therapy," said Marcus. 
"It is difficult to get children to wear the mask used in PAP treatments." However, surgery is not always effective in treating OSAS in children, especially in obese children, added Marcus. 

She said that many children who require PAP therapy have underlying chronic illnesses such as Down syndrome, or developmental delays. Furthermore, the rising incidence of obesity among children and adolescents has also increased the rate of OSAS in young people. 

Researchers found significant improvements in attention deficits, daytime sleepiness, behaviours such as anxiety and shyness, and quality of life when they used PAP therapy.

"We found that improvements occurred even when children were only using PAP as little as three hours a night," said Marcus, who noted that higher compliance would be expected to yield greater benefits. 

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