|Volume 6 Issue 249 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 5-Sep-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 6-Sep-2004||Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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Enlarged tonsils, adenoids and allergies
Obstructions due to chronically congested nasal passages or enlarged tonsils may affect the growth of the face. "Long face syndrome" is a term describing the longer, narrow face of children who suffer from uncontrolled allergies or, an obstruction of the upper airway which creates an inability to breathe through the nose.
"Narrow nostrils, shadows beneath the eyes and constantly open lips may also be associated with blockage of the upper airway or allergies," explains Jane A. Soxman, DDS, lead author of the report.
If the child is unable to breathe through the nose, mouthbreathing results, which may affect overall health since important nasal functions are bypassed. As air passes through the nose, it is warmed, humidified and cleansed of foreign particles, pollen and bacteria. "In addition, dry air carries less oxygen than moist air to the lungs, causing these children to fatigue more rapidly," explains Dr. Soxman.
The child's bite may change too. Unbalanced muscle forces compress the upper jaw and the tongue may protrude through the front teeth, forcing them outward. If the constriction of the upper jaw repositions the molars, a dentist may recommend expansion of the upper jaw with an appliance, which also often improves breathing.
In some children, a severe upper airway blockage can cause breathing to stop during sleep or sleep apnea. According to Dr. Soxman, these children may not grow normally because of the energy they expend trying to breathe during the night. Also, these children may be hyperactive and experience poor concentration, headaches, nightmares and bedwetting. Use the BEARS acronym to determine if sleep apnea is a possibility:
Parents may use an audio or video to tape documentation of the child's sleep disturbances. A physician may recommend removal of the adenoids if sleep apnea is due to obstruction of the upper airway.
If allergies are the source of the problem, the causes need to be determined and removed. Dr. Soxman encourages parents to minimize dust. "Use a damp cloth to dust, remove carpet, stuffed animals, down pillows and down comforters. Buy hypoallergenic pillows and cover mattresses and pillows with dust mite barrier covers." The child's doctor may recommend drugs or allergy shots to reduce allergic responses.
"Knowing what a nose knows may help to improve the quality of life," says Dr. Soxman.
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