Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Helping kids with Sleep Apnea rest easy

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Published: Jul. 26, 2016 at 1:20 PM CDT
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You've probably heard of sleep disorders like Sleep Apnea, most likely a friend or older relative has the condition. But this is far from just an adult issue and parents need to be paying extra attention to their kids sleep habits.

Growing up hasn't been the easiest journey for 5-year old Taylah Allerdings. Just a few years ago, she could hardly sleep a wink and was waking up more tired than the night before.

"She would sleep 12 hours and have bags under her eyes and so we went into her three year check up and brought it up with her normal pediatric doctor here in town. That's when she kind of got the ball rolling," said Thomas Allerdings, Taylah's father.

Shortly after, Taylah had her tonsils removed but the sleep problems continued. That's when the Allerdings made the trip to Sioux Falls to see Dr. Wilfredo Veloira.

"During this time of 2 to 6 years of age, there is an increased enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids compared to the upper airway; so it kind of blocks the upper airway causing obstruction." said Dr. Veloira, a pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist.

Because removing her tonsils didn't resolve the issue, Dr. Veloira had Taylah undergo a sleep study. Very quickly, a diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea was made.

"Normal people do it one to three times a night, and she was doing it 36 times an hour." said Thomas Allerdings.

"It's scary to think that she was not breathing when she was sleeping and she stopped breathing that many times and for that long." said Tanya Allerdings, Taylah's mother.

Everytime Taylah stopped breathing, that meant her body and brain were being robbed of oxygen. It's a very serious issue that can cause brain damage and a variety of health problems. Luckily, the condition is very treatable once diagnosed.

"So the next thing we did was put her on a CPAP machine which delivers distending pressure which keeps her airway open and it resolved her upper airway obstruction and her Obstructive Sleep Apnea." said Dr. Veloira.

No one readily volunteers to wear a CPAP machine. Most adults are afraid they won't be able to sleep with a mask on. So you'd think a three year old would refuse too. Well, not Taylah.

"Not at all, no, even Dr. Veloira was amazed that she keeps it on all night and she goes to bed with it and loves to put it on." said Tanya Allerdings.

Taylah knows her special mask makes her sleep better and feel better. In fact, hers is a 'Pixie' mask, a model designed for small children. With a steady air supply it didn't take long for her parents and Dr. Veloira to see positive results.

"When she first got her machine, she was considered underweight and undersized. She was in the bottom 50 percentile for all three categories and within a month she gained almost 10 pounds!" said Thomas Allerdings.

"We talk to her about her machine and when we talk about it, it saved her life... So we are pretty thankful for it." said Tanya Allerdings.

Studies show that 10% of children snore regularly. Of those kids, only about 3% end up having Obstructive Sleep Apnea. In Taylah's case, her family history played a big role as her father and several others also have the condition. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.