OSA in children

Causes of OSA in children

OSA is quite common and may affect up to 1 in 30 children. It affects boys and girls equally.

Children are more likely to be affected if:

  • they have large tonsils and adenoids
  • they are very overweight
  • there is a family history of OSA
  • they have Down’s syndrome
  • they have sickle cell disease

Other things that may cause OSA are

  • an abnormally small chin, large tongue or cleft palate
  • an extremely narrow upper airway
  • rare diseases of the nerves or muscles, which cause loss of upper airway tone because of poor muscle strength

Is there any way to prevent it?

You can’t completely prevent OSA but there are things you can do to make your child less likely to get it:

  • make sure your child is a healthy weight. If your child is obese, they are more likely to be affected by OSA. NHS Choice has more information about feeding your child a healthy diet. Your doctor will also be able to help.
  • do not smoke, or let others smoke, around your child. Have a look at our information about risks to children’s lung health for more info.

Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.