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Yes. Snoring is a key symptom of enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and if they're left untreated, they can lead to childhood obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Children with this condition may briefly stop breathing during sleep, and their bodies react by partially waking up, which jump-starts the breathing process, often with a gasp or snort. The real problem is that the lowered oxygen levels and constant sleep disruption leave most children tired and cranky. In fact, some kids with OSA are often misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), since many of the symptoms (like distractibility, excessive fidgeting, aggression, and irritability) are so similar. The cure: a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy, which means surgically removing the tonsils and/or adenoids.
But before you start to worry, it's important to remember that not all snoring is cause for concern. Roughly 10 percent of children snore, often because of colds, allergies, or routine issues like having a small jaw or small airway. However, you should have your child's tonsils and adenoids examined if you hear him breathing loudly at night. If your pediatrician suspects problems, he may recommend a sleep study to check for apnea. --Amy Linn
Copyright © 2003 Amy Linn. Reprinted with permission from the October 2003 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.