Children are often unable to express their pain and discomfort, so parents need to know what signs to look out for so that these problems can be diagnosed and prevent these problems from developing into health hazards.
1. CHRONIC COUGH
Many children suffer from chronic cough. In many cases, chronic cough may be due to a combination of infection, allergy and laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), each contributing partly to reach the threshold for the cough to be triggered.
What to do?
- Keep the environment free of dust, mould, smoke etc. to reduce risk of allergy
- Watch out for coloured nasal discharge or phlegm, which is indicative of infection
- Ask the child if he has noticed a sour taste in his mouth, burping, or the feeling of food coming back up the throat
- Do not allow food and drinks within two hours before bedtime
- Avoid heavy meals, and acidic and sour food and drinks, especially before sleeping
- If the child is overweight, help him lower his weight, as obesity exacerbates LPR
- To reduce LPR, elevate the head of the bed so that the head is above the stomach by 25-30 degrees
2. CHRONIC BLOCKED NOSE
Nasal obstruction is often left undiagnosed and untreated in children. If the child has never actually experienced good nasal breathing. He would simply breathe through his mouth. Mouth breathing increases the likelihood of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), dry mouth (leading to bad breath), asthma, as well as risk of contracting upper respiratory tract infections.
Common causes of blocked nose are enlarged turbinates, adenoids and tonsils, deviated nasal septum, polyps, allergic rhinitis, and chronic sinus infection.
What to look out for?
- Open mouth
- Dry and wrinkly lips
- Nasal voice and noisy nasal breathing
- Snoring or retraction of the chest when breathing in during sleep
- During sleep, gently close the child’s lips together and observe if he or she is able to breathe well for a period
3. SNORING AND OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA
Snoring is the noise occurring during sleep when something obstructs airflow through the airway. This obstruction may be due to structural narrowing and/or disease (e.g. rhinitis or sinusitis). In the majority of children, the obstruction is caused by enlarged tonsils, adenoids or turbinates, and/or sinusitis. Snoring may also be caused by the narrowing or collapsing of the upper airway, especially in obese children, as fat around the neck ‘strangulates’ the airway.
What to look out for?
- Noisy breathing during sleep, mouth breathing, blocked nose
- Restless sleep; tossing and turning as the child seeks the best sleeping position for air entry
- Unusual sleeping positions —sleeping on his face (with his bottom in the air) or in a sitting position for maximal airway
- Tiredness, hyperactivity, excessive daytime sleepiness, inattentiveness at school, poor performance at school