Everyone has brief pauses in their breathing pattern, which are usually normal. Sometimes though, there are longer pauses in breathing known as apnea. In children, such pauses may cause oxygen levels in the body to decrease temporarily and sleep will be disrupted. Nemours diagnoses and treats several types of apnea in children.
There are several different types of apnea in children:
Obstructive sleep apnea: The most common type of apnea in children is caused by a blockage of the airway (for example, by enlarged tonsils and adenoids). This is most likely to happen during sleep as the throat muscles relax.
Central apnea: When the part of the brain that controls breathing doesn't start or maintain the breathing process properly. This is most common in very premature infants in whom the brain’s respiratory center is immature.
Mixed apnea: A combination of central and obstructive sleep apnea in children is usually a sign of an immature breathing pattern. Mixed apnea may occur when a child is awake or asleep.
For Appointments: (407) 650-7715
Hours: Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you’ve made an appointment, please be sure to bring along the following items to help us check you in as efficiently as possible:
- photo ID
- medical and pharmacy insurance cards
- preferred pharmacy name and phone number
- names and dosage of all medications, including over-the-counter medication, your child is currently taking
- guardianship and custody papers, if a legal guardian rather than a parent accompanies your child
- any forms required for school, camp, sports, etc.
- a list of prior immunizations
Bring these forms for your first appointment:
The pediatric experts at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando are recognized as some of the nation’s best board-certified pediatricians and pulmonologists (lung doctors) who evaluate and treat disorders like apnea in children. In addition to working with highly skilled pediatric respiratory therapists, we partner with other pediatric specialists such as otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat, or “ENT”), neurologists and allergists/immunologists to give your child the healthy benefits of restful sleep.
And for your convenience, some of the same specialists your child sees at Nemours Children’s Hospital also offer appointments at our specialty care locations in downtown Orlando, Lake Mary and Melbourne.
Apnea in Children
Apnea is a disorder that occurs when breathing pauses during sleep one or more times a night. Apnea in children can affect daily mood and behavior, and can have long-term impact on cognitive functioning (the way your child thinks). Learning disabilities, hyperactivity and metabolic (growth and hormone) problems have also been linked to sleep apnea.
- sleeping with mouth open and/or neck extended
- loud snoring or breathing
- bedwetting (enuresis)
- restlessness during sleep
- headaches and dry mouth upon waking
- excessive daytime sleepiness
There are three types of apnea:
- obstructive apnea: caused by an airway blockage due to enlarged adenoids or tonsils located in the back of the throat
- central apnea: caused by the brain failing to send signals to “breathe” (most common in premature babies)
- mixed apnea: a combination of obstructive and central apnea often caused by immature breathing
Some medical conditions can also cause apnea, such as:
- craniofacial disorders (affecting the face and jaw)
- Down syndrome
- musculoskeletal disorders (cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy)
Our Coordinated Approach to Pediatric Apnea
Your child’s Nemours care team includes pulmonologists (lung doctors) and other specialists working together across departments to evaluate and treat apnea and related conditions.
At your child’s first visit, Nemours specialists will perform a thorough physical examination and take a detailed medical and sleep history. We may also gain additional information from family members, teachers and other care providers your child sees regularly.
For further evaluation, your care team might order an X-ray of the upper airway, or a number of non-invasive ambulatory (at-home) diagnostic tests using portable devices that record data while your child sleeps and/or during wakefulness. These may include:
- actigraphy (monitors movement)
- maintenance of wakefulness test, or MWT (measures brain and body activity)
- measurement of daytime sleepiness, or Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT)
- oximetry (monitors blood oxygen and heart rate)
If more information is needed, your child may participate in an overnight sleep study, or polysomnography, at our hospital’s pediatric sleep lab.
Once we understand what’s causing your child’s apnea, we’ll develop a treatment plan. And because you’re the most important member on your child’s health care team, we include you in all of the decisions because, after all, no one knows your child as well as you.
Depending on your child’s condition, we may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- medication therapy (to relieve nasal congestion and allergies)
- better diet/nutrition and physical activity (to reduce weight)
- continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP (pushes oxygen into the air passages and lungs via a nasal and/or mouth mask)
- surgery (to remove large tonsils and adenoids that make it difficult to breathe)
The Nemours Commitment to Family-Centered Care
At Nemours, we recognize the importance of the family in the care and healing process. Because many of the children we see have chronic illnesses that require repeated visits, we build strong relationships with our families that foster respect, dignity and collaboration. We’re also committed to educating children and families about the medical condition, and how best to manage it. Our goal is to get your child back to the business of being a kid as quickly as possible.
A Hospital Designed by Families, for Families
At Nemours Children’s Hospital, family-centered care is at the heart of everything we do. In fact, families helped shape the unique amenities and convenient services that make our hospital like no other in the region.
You’ll feel right at home in one of our private patient rooms designed with input from families who know what it’s like to have a child in the hospital.
Our large, comfortable, single-patient rooms have sleeping accommodations for two parents, a private bathroom, wireless Internet access, connections for DVD players and game systems, and two flat-screen TVs.
Other in-room features include:
- full floor-to-ceiling windows for natural light
- refrigerator for family meals and snacks
- wardrobe storage for personal items and a hotel-style safe
- GetWellNetwork interactive television (uniquely based on your child’s age, medical condition and more) and allows your child to watch TV, surf the Web, check e-mail, play music and games, and learn about your Nemours health care team.
Our “hospital within a garden” setting features many places for you and your family to go for fresh air and relaxation, including a one-acre interactive sensory discovery garden or one of our rooftop gardens on the second and fourth floors.
We have many more comforts and amenities such as:
- complimentary valet and parking
- kid-friendly commons areas for siblings
- café and coffee shop
- nondenominational chapel
- concierge services
If your child needs medical imaging, we offer some of the area’s most advanced pediatric radiology services here on campus at Nemours
Our unique services include:
- interventional radiology: Our team of experts uses image guidance to diagnose and treat diseases and tumors throughout the body. Certain conditions that previously required open surgery can now be treated by Nemours pediatric interventional radiologists. We are very fortunate to have the only dual-trained pediatric diagnostic and interventional radiologist in the state.
- neuroradiological or cardiovascular imaging, and fetal MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): Our subspecialty-trained pediatric radiologists see children with complex conditions who require this highly specialized imaging.
- Central Florida’s only 256-slice Brilliance iCT Scanner: We are one of only a handful of children’s hospitals in the country to have this latest generation CAT (or CT) scanner that scans faster than most machines and produces excellent images in a much shorter time with much less radiation exposure for the child.
Our team of board-certified pediatric radiologists and pediatric radiologic technologists are experts in the safe medical imaging of children of every age, even newborns.
We have also pledged our commitment to the “Image Gently” campaign of the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging, which is increasing awareness of the opportunities to promote radiation protection in the imaging of children.
At Nemours, we want to hear your concerns and share with you everything we can about your child's condition and treatment. If English is not your first language, we'll make sure you understand what to expect — in your language.