OSA in children

Diagnosing OSA in children

Your doctor should ask you about your child’s symptoms, behaviour, general health and medical history.

It can help to take:

  • a completed form about your child's symptoms
  • a recording of your child when asleep (many mobile phones have video recording)
  • observations, reports or notes about your child from the child-minder, nursery or school that might be relevant

If your doctor is not concerned but you are, keep observing and recording your findings.

If your doctor thinks your child might have OSA they will refer them for assessment. Your doctor will know about the local services and where referrals are accepted.

Alternatively he or she might want to observe your child for a while and try some initial treatments such as nasal drops or spray or weight loss.

Assessment and diagnosis

Doctors might need to carry out more than one test to diagnose OSA.

  • Parental observations. Reports (including videos or recordings) by the parent or carer are a major source of information about a child’s sleeping pattern and symptoms.
  • Oxygen saturation monitoring measures the level of oxygen in the blood as the child sleeps. It involves having a small light sensor taped, usually, to a fingertip or toe. The results need to be reviewed by a specialist, although it is sometimes possible for the test to be done at home.
  • More complex tests. Oxygen saturation monitoring might help diagnose severe OSA, but on its own it can miss milder cases. More complex checks might be required. These can include:
    • levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide (the waste gas we breathe out)
    • breathing movements of the chest and tummy
    • heart rate and rhythm
    • airflow
    •  video and sound recording
    • brainwave activity (EEG), although this is less common

The checks are done overnight in specialist sleep centres. You can usually sleep in a bed next to your child during the assessment.

OSA in children symptoms form

Complete this form before you visit a health care professional and take it with you to your child’s appointment.

Download our OSA in children form (PDF, 182KB)


If you have concerns or need advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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Download our OSA in children form (PDF, 182KB)

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.