How is OSA diagnosed in children?
If your child has some or all of the symptoms of OSA, visit your doctor. They should ask you about your child’s symptoms, behaviour, general health and medical history. They may also refer your child for tests.
Visiting the doctor
It’s good to be prepared before your visit. It can help to take:
- a completed form about your child's symptoms
- a video recording of your child when asleep
- 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 and arrange another appointment if the symptoms don’t get better.
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, they might want to try some initial treatments such as nasal drops or spray.
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. It is sometimes possible for this test to be done at home.
- More complex tests. Oxygen saturation monitoring might help diagnose OSA, but on its own it can miss more complex cases. More detailed checks might be needed. These can include:
- levels of carbon dioxide (the waste gas we breathe out)
- breathing movements of the chest and tummy
- heart rate and rhythm
- video and sound recording
- brainwave activity (EEG), although this is less common
Depending on your local facilities, these checks may be done either overnight in specialist sleep centres or at home. If your child needs to come into hospital, you can usually sleep in a bed next to your child during the assessment.
OSA in children symptoms form
Complete this BLF form before you visit a health care professional and take it with you to your child’s appointment.