If you smoke, you may have made a personal decision to continue your habit despite the health risks involved. Or, perhaps you are struggling to quit and haven’t found success yet. In either case, considering how smoking may be affecting your family can be a powerful motivator to help you cut back or kick the habit altogether. In this article, we’ll specifically discuss the connection between secondhand smoke and sleep apnea in children.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition marked by repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night. These pauses, called apneas, occur when tissues in the throat block the airway. Usually, OSA is regarded as a condition that mostly affects older, overweight men. However, it can affect people of any age, BMI, or gender. According to some estimates, about 4% of children suffer from OSA.
Secondhand Smoke and OSA
Study results published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology revealed a significant correlation between exposure to secondhand smoke and OSA in children ages 3 – 18. Additionally, the children exposed to secondhand smoke had more severe OSA than those who were not exposed. The study determined that secondhand smoke was an independent predictor of the severity of OSA, even when things like BMI and other factors were taken into account.
What explains the connection between secondhand smoke and OSA? It could be due to the fact that secondhand smoke irritates the oral tissues, leading to inflammation. Nicotine may also cause the airway muscles to relax, increasing the risk of blockage.
Is Your Child Suffering from OSA?
Sleep apnea can cause significant health and behavioral problems for children, so it is important that parents be alert to its signs and symptoms. Your child might be suffering from OSA if they:
- Are always tired
- Have difficulty concentrating or perform poorly in school
- Snore loudly or breathe through their mouth while asleep
- Wet the bed
- Suffer from night terrors
- Move a lot during sleep
What You Can Do
If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, talk to a doctor about arranging a sleep test for your little one. After you receive an official diagnosis, you can explore treatment options. Oral appliance therapy, which repositions the jaw to keep the airway open, may help.
It would be ideal if your child’s exposure to secondhand smoke comes to an end. If you cannot quit smoking right away, you might adjust your routine so you only smoke outside. Of course, thirdhand smoke may continue to pose health risks to your family, so that is something to keep in mind as you determine how you can best support your child’s well-being.
Secondhand smoke is a risk factor for sleep apnea in children. Your efforts to kick the habit will benefit the health of your entire family!