edited: Monday, May 06, 2002
By Darlene C. Zagata
Posted: Tuesday, April 02, 2002
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Sleep apnea is a condition that all new and expectant parents need to be fully aware of since it can affect even a seemingly healthy child.
The recent birth of my grandson has prompted me to write this article to make more people aware of the unusual condition known as sleep apnea. My now three week old grandchild was born full term with no complications yet the day after being released from the hospital, he ceased breathing three different times and had to be rushed back to the hospital. The child was then transferred by life flight to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa. After a week of intense testing, he was diagnosed as suffering from sleep apnea which is the condition primarily causing what most of us know as crib death or SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing during sleep. Although the condition is more prevalent in infants and children, it does occur in a small percentage of adults as well. The cause is unknown although there are several conditions thought to be a factor in sleep apnea. Medical experts believe an unknown virus, immunoglobin abnormalities or an abnormality in the larynx to play a role in the condition.
There are no signs or symptoms of distress in an infant suffering from sleep apnea and unfortunately there is no treatment. It is believed that children are no longer at risk by the age of one year. It is also believed that the most crucial period is from birth to ten to twelve weeks of age.
In cases of infants who suffer from sleep apnea, a monitoring device will be needed. This device is attatched around the child's chest like a velcro belt that will connect to the monitor which the parent can slip over their shoulder like a travel bag when carrying the child. In the event that the child would stop breathing the device will set off an alarm to alert the parents. Hospitals will provide parents with training in infant CPR.
A child may need to be kept on the monitor anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The physician will make that determination usually through weekly visits to monitor the child's progress. My grandson will remain on the monitor indefinetly until the doctor feels it is safe to remove him from it. Sleep apnea is a condition that all new and expectant parents need to be fully aware of. It is also worthy of intense study into the causes of this unusual but deadly condition.