Health Team

Study: Tonsils could cause children’s breathing problems

Posted July 31, 2009

Eleven percent of American children have trouble breathing at night, and it could be because of their tonsils, according to a new study.

“The hallmark is snoring,” said Dr. Max April, with the Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Snoring is the key sign the tonsils and adenoids are to blame, according to the study. They clog breathing passages, and doctors warn that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be a by-product of sleep apnea, but it's not a symptom.

A mother, identified only as Kim, said her two boys had difficulty breathing at night. Snoring would wake them up, making them tired during the day.

Study: Tonsils could cause childrens breathing problems Tonsils could be linked to breathing problems

Like his brother, Andrew, 7-year-old Will had enlarged tonsils that blocked his air-flow. Doctors removed his tonsils, which improved his sleep immediately, Kim said.

The study found that removing tonsils and adenoid glands helped long term.

“The majority of improvement continued even two and a half years after surgery. And I suspect when they do the next study at five years, it will continue,” April said.

Pediatric sleep apnea is a relatively new problem, according to WRAL Health Team Physician Dr. Allen Mask.

“Prior to the 80s, many kids had their tonsils removed because of infections. Today, better medicines mean more kids have their tonsils,” he said.

Tonsillectomies aren't performed as much as they used to be. However, it remains the most common major operation performed on children in the United States, ranking just above getting ear tubes.


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  • Lab mom Aug 3, 2009

    I totally agree!! My daughter had hers removed at 3 and she automatically slept better!!

  • judburnette3 Aug 3, 2009

    I do suggest to have your kids tonsils removed early. I am 35 and just had mine removed for causing sleep apnea and snoring. It was a major problem, however at my age it took up to 2 weeks to recover and sometimes it is longer. But kids can bounce back from this surgery in like 3 days.

  • duvler Aug 3, 2009

    I totally agree with this. I noticed on a long trip that my son seemed to stop breathing and snored extremely loudly when he slept. His tonsils were removed in December and he no longer snores and does not stop breathing when he sleeps. The surgery was tough on him at 17, but worth it in the long run.