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  • Writer's pictureCAFF Team


Updated: Jan 26, 2022

More than 400-million children around the globe are currently experiencing breathing issues. Many of these are treatable airway disorders that often go undiagnosed and untreated.

To help better understand the magnitude of this silent epidemic, we have pulled some highlights from the book GASP - Airway Health: The Hidden Path to Wellness by Dr. Michael Gelb and Dr. Howard Hindin.

childhood airway disorders

The following are a few takeaways from the book, GASP - Airway Health: The Hidden Pathway to Wellness which can be found on the CAFF Reading List and is available on for purchase:

  • A survey by the National Sleep Foundation found 18-29% of children suffer from sleep-disordered breathing. Many of these children are mouth breathers.

  • Mouth breathing, sleep-disorder breathing, and snoring can disrupt brain development causing attention, behavior, and learning issues for children.

  • An often overlooked group of symptoms associated with childhood airway disorders include bed-wetting, nightmares, sleepwalking, and colic.

  • Do you have a child with repeated bouts of tonsillitis? That could be a signal that your child's tonsils and adenoids should be removed immediately because they could be impacting your child's airway.

  • Sleep-disordered breathing in children can damage the prefrontal cortex of a child's brain, thus the importance of preventing sleep-disordered breathing.

  • Airway obstruction has been linked to attention deficit and hyperactive disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, allergies, asthma, and inflammatory disease.

  • Orthodontics often erroneously remove teeth to provide room to produce straight teeth without gaps. While it might look good, this can result in recessed jaws and diminished airways in children. It is critical that pediatricians and pediatric dentists collaborate on treatments for children to prevent this all too often occurrence.

  • A long, narrow face can be an indicator of an airway disorder or obstruction. This is caused by the body struggling to breathe. Additionally, mouth breathing adversely changes the growth of the face.

  • Children with airway obstructions often have a retruded lower jaw, forward head posture, and an elongated or gummy smile. Should you see these signs in your child, you should consult your pediatrician immediately.

  • Sleep-disordered breathing is a systemic condition, that changes brain chemistry, the body's metabolism, hormone balance, and overall physical and mental wellbeing. Left untreated, it can increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, acid reflux, and even fatal cancer.


Child breathing disorders encompass a variety of conditions that affect the airways of a child. Various issues, blockages, or malformations of the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi can result in pediatric airway disorders.

Children may experience problems with attention, behavior, and learning because of mouth breathing, sleep-disorder breathing, and snoring. Childhood airway disorders are associated with many unrecognized symptoms, including bed-wetting, nightmares, sleepwalking, and colic.


There are several signs and symptoms to look for that will help to identify if your child might have an airway disorder. Ask yourself the following:

  • Does your child sleep through the night?

  • How many times does your child chew each bite or mouthful before swallowing?

  • Does your child almost always have a stuffy nose?

  • Does your child have a "worried" expression when swallowing?

  • Does your child sleep with an open mouth?

These are just a few of the questions that can help you identify if your child might be dealing with a sleep-breathing or other airway disorder. Visit the Children's Airway First Foundation Resource Library for videos, podcasts, medical papers, blogs, recommended reading, and more to discover more about treatable children's airway issues.

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.


There is a silent epidemic weaving its way throughout the children of the world. Sleep issues, an inability to focus or concentrate, lack of energy, and even depression are all symptoms that can be traced back to childhood airway disorders. If caught and treated early enough, the pain and suffering a child experiences can be avoided. Without identification and treatment, a child suffering from an airway disorder will experience pain, exhaustion, mental issues, and even death.

The Children's Airway First Foundation (CAFF) is on a mission to ensure that both parents and pediatric medical professionals become educated on the causes of childhood airway disorders, the signs and symptoms to look for, and what treatment options are available.

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