Got a little log sawer on your hands? Most kids will snore on occasion, but if yours is a regular nighttime noisemaker (between 10 and 20 percent of tots are), you'll want to keep an eye (or ear!) on the situation: Snoring can be a sign that a child's tonsils, adenoids, or both are enlarged. In fact, what you hear are the vibrations caused by air flowing over these tissues, which are partly blocking her airway. In severe cases this can make it hard for her to breathe -- a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea -- and can compromise her sleep because "the drive to breathe will keep waking her up partially," explains Lewis J. Kass, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist in Mount Kisco, NY. Without treatment, this can lead to sleepiness and trouble concentrating or even developmental delays, and, as a new study of snoring preschoolers in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics reports, mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
The first step toward conquering snoring is to figure out why a child's tonsils or adenoids are big. Untreated reflux is a common cause in babies: The stomach acids that wash back up irritate the tonsils and cause them to swell. Kids between 2 and 5 often snore because their tonsils or adenoids are growing out of proportion to the rest of their bodies. And any child with a cold may snore until the illness runs its course, since both tissues can swell up during an infection.
Talk to your pediatrician if you're concerned about your not-so-silent snoozer, and be sure to mention if she also moves around a lot or sweats at night, has trouble breathing during the day or breathes with her mouth open, gets frequent ear infections, or her skin looks bluish around her mouth, nose, and eyes (all signs of enlarged adenoids). If your doctor concludes that your child's tonsils or adenoids are simply too big for her body, it may make sense to remove them.