Medical Treatment for Sleep Apnea in Children

Experts in sleep and breathing disorders at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone may recommend medical treatments for children with mild sleep apnea. Doctors determine the appropriate treatment for your child based on the underlying cause.

Allergy Medication

When allergies are the main cause of a child’s sleep apnea, allergy medication can be used to shrink the swollen adenoid tissue. Your doctor may recommend nasal steroids, saline spray, and nonprescription allergy medications for about six weeks, or until allergy symptoms improve.

If your child continues to have sleep apnea because of swollen adenoid tissue, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove this tissue.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

Continuous positive airway pressure, commonly known as CPAP, uses pressurized air to hold the airways open as your child sleeps. Before going to sleep, your child places a small mask over their nose, mouth, or both. A tube connects the mask to the CPAP machine, which delivers air into the tube.

This treatment may be recommended for children who are not candidates for using surgery to remove enlarged adenoids or other blockages in the airway. CPAP is also commonly used to improve nighttime breathing in children with Down syndrome, many of whom have an enlarged tongue.

Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure

Bilevel positive airway pressure, known as BiPAP, is similar to CPAP but delivers higher levels of air as your child inhales. BiPAP may be an option for children who do not respond to CPAP.

Supplemental Oxygen

For infants with sleep apnea caused by an unusually narrow airway, jaw, or nasal cavity, our doctors may recommend supplemental oxygen therapy at home. This treatment may also be used in children who have a blockage in one of the nasal passages, which is known as choanal atresia.

Supplemental oxygen therapy is used while your baby sleeps at night. Oxygen is delivered through a nasal cannula, which is a small, flexible tube that is placed in your baby’s nostrils and attached to an oxygen tank. Supplemental oxygen may be used until your child can have surgery to correct the structural problem.

Resources for Sleep Apnea in Children
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