Why you should watch your kids sleep at night
A SUNSHINE Coast surgeon is urging parents to watch their kids sleep every night.
Ear, Nose and Throat specialist David McIntosh believes it might help change some lives.
"Any child that is mouth breathing or snoring is sustaining brain damage," he said.
Dr McIntosh, 46, has been on a quest to educate both parents and doctors alike about the importance of not normalising things like snoring or sleep deprivation in children.
In a recent Facebook post shared almost 1500 times and garnering hundreds of comments so far, Dr McIntosh shared a disturbing photo of an 11-month-old Brisbane girl who was having so much trouble breathing that her chest was being sucked in and collapsing on itself.
Dr McIntosh claimed the girl's condition had previously been dismissed by a general practitioner (GP) because she had not had tonsillitis.
"Sometimes I just want to cry," he wrote on the Facebook post.
"I had a mum see me and she brought in this photo. What you are seeing is a young child (11 months) who is so obstructed by their tonsils that to try and breathe their chest wall is being sucked in and collapsing on itself due to excessive muscular activity.
"This child was dismissed by a GP as being OK because they had not had tonsillitis."
Dr McIntosh wrote that it was "a common and repeated experience" and that "enough is enough when cases like this are being dismissed."
He told The Courier-Mail the baby had been breathing like that for about six months before he saw her, and she was now a "different and brilliant child," after having her tonsils and adenoids removed.
The ENT specialist, who has also written a book called "Snored to Death" and regularly appears on podcasts, emphasised sleep deprivation was a cause for concern in children.
He said some signs that kids might not be breathing properly include snoring, sleeping with their mouth open, having behaviour issues or trouble concentrating.
"If a child's tired and miserable first thing in the morning, it's a hallmark of sleep deprivation," Dr McIntosh said.
"A lot of parents think their snoring child is cute or they 'snore like dad', but we need to get parents to understand that at the end of the day, any child that is snoring or mouth breathing is having a problem breathing at night."
Rebekah Barclay, 41, of Sandgate posted a video of her 2-year-old son, Thomas, struggling to breathe while he was asleep to the ENT's page.
She said her now 3-year-old had snored since he was a toddler and had big tonsils, but she never noticed how many times he stopped breathing during the night until a family trip to New Zealand in October, 2018 when they shared a room.
Thomas finally had his tonsils removed and adenoids removed on January 23.
"He has now slept through the night for the first time," Mrs Barclay told the Courier Mail.
The nurse, who is also mother to Chelsea, 12, and Jacob, 10, said her youngest son had previously mainly been treated for numerous ear infections, but he had never been diagnosed with tonsillitis.
As the issue mostly happens when the child is asleep, many doctors may put down a child's symptoms to other possibilities, leading to frustration for some parents.
Dr McIntosh said some common reasons children are not being referred to specialists include the myths that babies and toddlers are too young for surgery, the belief that they will "grow into" their tonsils or that many parents are told, by some doctors, that things like snoring is normal.
He said another reason is because many people do not understand that there are different types of ENT specialists, as well long waiting lists within the public healthcare system.
In some cases, dental intervention is the answer as some children simply have problems with jaw development, Dr McIntosh said.
He suggests parents watch their child sleep for a fortnight so they can become aware if there is an issue.
"If they notice episodes more than half the time, then there's absolutely a problem that needs to be addressed," he said.
"The next thing is we need to get all GP's to understand this is not OK, this is not normal, it's not something to leave them to outgrow.
"We know the science shows that six months of trouble breathing at night is enough to cause permanent changes to the brain."
People from around the world commented under Dr McIntosh's Facebook post, including Jehanne Hudson, 32, of Tamworth, who also posted a video of her 2-year-old son, Brodie, taking deep breaths as he breathed through his mouth as he slept.
She said she was continually told he had respiratory issues and that he would grow out of them.
After she sent multiple videos to a hospital, they booked Brodie, who is now four, in for a sleep study, where she said he stopped breathing 236 times in an hour.
"Emergency tonsillectomy and adenoids out the next day! And he has been able to breathe and finally eat properly!!! (sic)," she said.
Some important points that Dr McIntosh wants parents to know when it comes to children who are snoring, sleeping with their mouth open or constantly waking up tired:
■ Tonsillectomy is most commonly done due to obstruction.
■ Paediatric ENTs could not care less if a child has never had tonsillitis if they are obstructed.
■ They don't need to have sleep apnoea to warrant surgery
■ They don't grow into their tonsils
■ This child is at risk of heart failure and brain damage
■ They are not too young for surgery.
■ They don't need a sleep study.
■ It is a category 1 or 2 condition needing urgent attention within a few weeks- even 6 months is too long
■ See a paediatric ENT that focuses on airway problems and can quote the literature when providing an opinion.
■ Don't ignore snoring or mouth breathing in kids.