Sleep apnea can lead to other problems for kids, doctor warns

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Two-year-old Evie Dearing is as cute as they come, but her young journey in life hit some early bumps. 

"She was angry. I mean like she was really angry all the time," recalled mom Aimee. 

Evie was angry because she was always tired. Some in-depth medical tests revealed something scary: Evie was born with pediatric sleep apnea. 

"I didn't think people were born with sleep apnea. As far as I knew, you were overweight or something and that's when you get sleep apnea," Aimee continued. 

It caused Evie to snore loudly while sleeping. "She would wake up gasping, almost choking. And it would be from a dead sleep to screaming.”

Between 8 and 10 percent of kids suffer from sleep apnea, and there are signs parents can look for. 

"Obviously, first thing is snoring," offered John Hopkins All Children's sleep physician Dr. Luis Ortiz. "Then there can be behavioral issues, concentration issues, difficulty with staying awake during the day or staying asleep at night."

Evie was having up to 80 episodes a night where she would stop breathing. Aimee says it kept the family on edge. "I woke at night all the time watching her."

Surgeons removed Evie's adenoids, but it didn't help. The family then brought Evie to Dr. Ortiz. He immediately said she needed a bi-pap sleep machine with a mask to help her breathe properly through the night. 

Things began to turn around. "She sleeps 11 hours (now). It's just been completely life-changing for her because she just wasn't rested her whole life pretty much," continued Aimee.

If not diagnosed early, children can be unfairly labeled with a learning disability or lack of emotional growth. Sleep apnea can even lead to physical problems such as hypertension and cardiac issues.  

"Imagine a child not getting good quality sleep at night," Dr. Ortiz added. "They are not going to be able to do well at school; they aren't going to interact well with their peers. That can change their whole lives."