What parents need to know about sleep apnea in children

A doctor discusses the potential dangers of the sleep problem for children and what symptoms should raise red flags for parents.
5:00 | 09/14/17

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Transcript for What parents need to know about sleep apnea in children
Now to that important health warning for parents about kids and snoring. It could be a sign of a more dangerous problem and Paula Faris is here with one family's eye-opening story. Good morning, Paula. Good morning. We're talking about sleep apnea, something you typically associate with adults but children suffer from sleep apnea yet many times they're misdiagnosed and snoring could be your first clue. ??? they're so cute when they're sleeping and they're so funny when they another, right? Well, maybe not. Let's say my child another, should I be concerned? It should raise a flag and you should think about watching some other signs and symptoms that sound the alarm. We just wanted to talk about how you're doing. Reporter: This doctor sees a lot of young anotherers and says all that cute snoring could be a sign of something serious. Children can have sleep apnea? Definitely. It's not a problem restricted to adults and it's actually one of the most common reasons why children need other tonsils or adenoids removed. Reporter: But it's not always that easy. When Amanda and Kevin brought their newborn home he seemed to be a healthy infant but three months in, baby Caden began to have episodes during which he'd stop breathing. Just completely limp, nonresponsive. I would hold him and say, Caden, Caden and he'd finally start breathing. Reporter: At 6 months a sleep study showed little Caden had not one but two breathing disorders and found obstruct tiff sleep apnea which occurs when something is blocking the airway and central sleep apnea which occurs when the brain does not give the body a signal to breathe. It isn't uncommon in newborns but Caden was past that stage and not getting better. His tonsils were not enlarged so even surgery wasn't the answer. Aside from snoring other symptoms of sleep apnea in children include hyperactivity, trouble focusing in school, depression or anger and even bedwetting. Symptoms that can sometimes be confused with ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and can cause kids to be misdiagnosed. Many kids may get labeled as being hyperactive and I think it's important to look at a variety of different causes that do be contributing to that. It may not be that sleep is the only cause, but if there's a worry about the child's sleep it should definitely be investigated. And that's where that misdiagnosis can come into play. Again, those symptoms can mirror ADHD such as hyperactivity but we don't want to be alarmist. If they have sleep apnea that doesn't necessarily mean they'll another but if you suspect your child does have sleep apnea, you want to speak to your pediatrician. They'll facilitate a sleep study. I know you'll speak with Dr. Ashton about it but typically the way you treat them with it, removal of tonsils or adenoids, much different than how you treat dulls. I love how you're becoming our snoring expert. How did that happen? I don't know the connection there. Talk about what we're seeing. A child's cpap machine. Continuous positive airway pressure and you wear it on your face. The kids' versions have some nice cartoons and colorful colors. They're kid friendly. And it blows a low degree of continuous airway to the upper airways so that those structures can't none down and cut off the breathing in do you have any suggests for parents who have to put this on their child. I empathize and sympathize, it's hard to get kids to brush their teeth. This could be even harder. The first tip is to familiarize yourself with the cpap. Get them comfortable with it. Have them try it on when they're awake and then have them ease into sleeping with it. And then stick with it. If they rip it off or knock it off during the night, put it back on and it's very, very important. You need to explain to them once they're at the ages of reason they do need to keep the mask on and it will make them feel better during the day so older children will gradually learn to understand. What conditions can cause this. It's interesting. We heard about it being misdiagnosed as ADHD or add but seasonal allergy, hay fever, any upper airway infection can cause similar symptoms, the key is that it's acute. It's short term and it will resolve with treatment. So ideally you start with your pediatrician, they will then triage, dos this child need a sleep study or a visit with a specialist like an ear, nose and throat doctor if possible. Talk more about the misdiagnosis and why that is. It's easy when you can connect the dots between a symptom or sign and an end point or a manifesttation. Not so easy when they're removed so have to remember to think holistically. Just because something is going on during the day doesn't mean it doesn't have its origin at night so think of the whole person. I love how people are just bouncing -- nodding along and agreeing. Everyone is tired. A lot of what you're saying are agreeing with you. Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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