UNDERSTANDING THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF AIRWAY DISORDERS

Updated: Jul 20

Children with airway disorders often experience an emotional element that can be misdiagnosed or disregarded. The daily strain from trying to go through life with a childhood breathing disorder can wear on a child's mental capacity, cause sleep issues, and even cause hypoxic brain dysfunction.


mental impact of airway disorders in children

BRAIN IMPACTS OF AIRWAY DISORDERS in children


As early as birth, a child can experience an airway disorder. Toddlers and young children who are diagnosed as being mouth breathing will often exhibit signs of sleep-disorder breathing and can be suffering from an undiagnosed airway disorder. A child's breathing disorder can have a negative impact on their behavior, attention, and learning.


According to an article by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, changes in breathing, like those caused by an airway disorder, can impact your brain. And the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child also found that excessive stress, like that which is experienced by children with airway disorders, can severely impact brain development in children.


As much as ten points of IQ can be lowered by sleep-disordered breathing in children. It causes hypoxic brain damage to the prefrontal cortex of a child's brain and causes hypoxic brain dysfunction.


SIGNS OF DEPRESSION IN CHILDREN


Children with depression can exhibit a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms are often misinterpreted as normal emotional and psychological changes, so the condition remains undiagnosed and untreated.



While this is sometimes the case, particularly in younger children, many children show sadness or low mood in the same way that depressed adults do. Sadness, hopelessness, and mood changes are some of the primary symptoms of depression.


A child struggling with mental issues as a result of an airway disorder will exhibit the following signs:

  • Detachment

  • Unresponsiveness or resistance to comforting

  • Excessive inhibition (holding back emotions)

  • Social withdrawal or a sudden tendency to keep to themselves

  • Failure to seek affection from caregivers and other people

  • Crankiness or anger

  • Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness

  • Being more sensitive to rejection

  • Changes in appetite, either increased or decreased

  • Changes in sleep (sleeplessness or excessive sleep)

  • Vocal outbursts or crying

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Fatigue and low energy


SLEEP-DISORDERED BREATHING IN CHILDREN


A child with sleep-disordered breathing has extremely altered brain chemistry, changes in their metabolism and hormone balance, as well as their overall physical and mental wellbeing. If left untreated, it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, acid reflux, and even fatal cancer.


Airway disorders in children often can be first identified through symptoms such as:


  • having trouble waking up and staying awake

  • ongoing issues focusing or paying attention in school ("brain fog")

  • finding it difficult to focus on and finish schoolwork

  • being diagnosed with ADHD

  • experiencing abnormal irritability

  • ongoing issues with bed-wetting, nightmares, sleepwalking

With these symptoms and side effects to deal with, often undiagnosed, it's no wonder that children and teens with airway disorders often experience anxiety, depression, and other mental issues.

EDUCATION IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS HELP FOR YOUR CHILD


Education is the first step for any parent who might be concerned about their child's mental and physical health.


The Children's Airway First Foundation Resource library has information that can aid in identifying symptoms and providing guidance on the first steps towards helping your child with an airway disorder.

parent resources for airway issues in children

As with any medical condition, consult your child's pediatrician should you see any of these symptoms in your child or if you suspect your child is suffering from an airway disorder.