Which age groups have the highest prevalence of childhood obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Updated: Feb 13, 2019
  • Author: Mary E Cataletto, MD; Chief Editor: Denise Serebrisky, MD  more...
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Obstructive sleep apnea is observed in children of all ages and may develop even in infancy. Retrospective studies note that a large number of parents with children in whom obstructive sleep apnea is diagnosed recall that their child's snoring began within the first months of life. Preterm babies are at risk for more obstructive events while supine, but some have suggested that they are still at a lower risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome. However, Moon et al, citing 3 studies, report that premature infants may be at 4 times increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome compared with term infants, with the risk increasing at lower gestational age and birthweight. [4]

Most children with obstructive sleep apnea are aged 2-10 years (coinciding with adenotonsillar lymphatic tissue growth). Children with severe obstructive apnea are likely to present when aged 3-5 years. The mean age at diagnosis has been reported to be 14 months, plus or minus 12 months.

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