Treatments can include removing the tonsils and adenoids; topical nasal steroids or other anti-inflammatory medications; weight loss; and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices.
The researchers broke down kids with sleep-disordered symptoms into four groups: those whose symptoms were the worst at 6 months of age and then abated; 18 months and then abated; those whose symptoms didn't start until they were about 3.5 years old and then persisted; and those whose symptoms peaked at 2.5 years of age and persisted.
Nearly all four groups had an increased risk of various problems, including emotional, conduct and peer issues.
For example, at age 7, kids with "worst" sleep-breathing problems were 85 percent more likely to hyperactive, about 60 percent more likely to have emotional or conduct problems and nearly 40 percent more likely to have peer difficulties.
Children whose symptoms peaked early -- at 6 months or 18 months -- were 40 percent to 50 percent more likely to have behavioral problems at age 7, compared with normally breathing children.
The American Sleep Apnea Association has more on sleep apnea in children.
SOURCES: Karen Bonuck, Ph.D., professor, family and social medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and women's health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York City; Heidi Connolly, M.D., associate professor, pediatrics and psychiatry, and division chief, pediatric sleep medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, N.Y.; March 5, 2012, Pediatrics, online
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