OSA in children

What are the signs of OSA in children?

There are several symptoms to look out for if you think your child might have OSA. These can happen both at night-time and during the day and may get worse when your child has a cold or chest infection.

A child with OSA might show some or all of these symptoms:

Night-time OSA symptoms

Common symptoms

  • Snoring (although this is also fairly common in children without OSA)
  • Pauses in breathing noticed by parents and carers, which might be followed by a gasp or snort

Other possible symptoms of OSA

  • Gasps, snorts and choking sounds
  • Restlessness and sudden awakenings from sleep
  • Laboured breathing
  • Unusual sleep posture, for example, with the head bent backwards
  • Bedwetting (although this is common in children without OSA)
  • Sweating
  • Breathing through the mouth

Daytime OSA symptoms

  • Tiredness and sleepiness
  • Being irritable and prone to tears and tantrums
  • Hyperactivity, which may alternate with sleepiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor or decreased performance at school
  • Difficulty putting on weight
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Speech that sounds nasal
  • Early morning headache

If symptoms are not recognised and a child remains undiagnosed for a long time, there is a risk of strain on the heart. If you have any concerns discuss these with your doctor so that the diagnosis can be made promptly.

Next: How is OSA diagnosed in children? >

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Last medically reviewed: September 2019. Due for review: September 2022

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.