The study appears in the April issue of the journal CHEST.
"We found that snoring was associated with presence of allergic sensitization (a condition called atopy)," according to Maninder Kalra, M.D., a physician/researcher in pulmonary medicine at Cincinnati Children's and corresponding author of the study in CHEST.
The study focused on 681 children who were on average 12 months old. Researchers found that children with at least one parent who snores more than three times per week, were three times more likely to snore themselves as compared to children of parents who did not snore frequently. Children with atopy were two times more likely to snore at least three times per week than children who did not test positive for atopy.
While there have been few studies on infants who snore, studies in older children and adults indicate that frequent snoring can lead to behavioral problems, cognitive deficits, and cardiovascular and metabolic problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for obstructive sleep-disordered breathing, a condition characterized by partial or complete upper airway obstruction during sleep. Snoring is the most common symptom of childhood obstructive sleep-disordered breathing.
"More than 40 million children in the western world have allergies. In addition, the incidence of allergy-related respiratory diseases is rising. Although previous studies have shown that having a history of allergic respiratory disease is a risk factor for obstructive sleep-disordered breathing, the association between atopy and habitual snoring in young children had not been studied," Dr. Kalra said.
Dr. Kalra stressed the importance of early detection in an effort to prevent morbidity due to untreated obstructive sleep disordered breathing. Children who snore frequently should be evaluated by a sleep specialist to rule out the presence of obstructive sleep disordered breathing.
"Now that we know how prevalent snoring is in children this young and that it is more common in children with positive atopic status, parents and health care professionals can take appropriate action," Dr. Kalra said.
The Cincinnati Children's study is based on 681 children (median age 12.6 months). Of the 681 children, 542, or 80 percent were Caucasian; 118, or 17 percent were African American; and, 21, or three percent were biracial or Asian. African American children were disproportionately affected in that 31 percent of all children snored at least three times per week, Dr. Kalra said.
The study not only offers insight into the extent of snoring in young children, but is a first step in determining the natural history of childhood snoring. "We would like to know how the snoring progresses as the child ages. Does it stop, continue or escalate? We will continue to follow these children through age 5 years to answer these questions," Dr. Kalra said.
The studies co-authors include Grace LeMasters, Ph.D., and Linda Levin, Ph.D., of the department of environmental health, University of Cincinnati; David Bernstein, M.D., division of immunology and allergy, University of Cincinnati; Raouf Amin, M.D., of pulmonary medicine at Cincinnati Children's; and, Kimberly Wilson, M.S., and Aliza Cohen, M.A., of pediatric and thoracic surgery at Cincinnati Children's.
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