Obstructive sleep apnea in children: Do intranasal corticosteroids help?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common condition of childhood, and is associated with significant morbidity. Prevalence of the condition peaks during early childhood, due in part to adenoidal and tonsillar enlargement within a small pharyngeal space. The lymphoid tissues regress after 10 years of age, in the context of ongoing bony growth, and there is an associated fall in the prevalence of OSA. Obstruction of the nasopharynx by adenoidal enlargement promotes pharyngeal airway collapse during sleep, and the presence of large tonsils contributes to airway obstruction. Administration of systemic corticosteroids leads to a reduction in the size of lymphoid tissues due to anti-inflammatory and lympholytic effects. However, a short course of systemic prednisone has been demonstrated not to have a significant effect on adenoidal size or the severity of OSA, and adverse effects preclude the long-term use of this therapy. Intranasal corticosteroids are effective in relieving nasal obstruction in allergic rhinitis, and allergic sensitization is more prevalent among children who snore than among those who do not snore. Intranasal corticosteroids have also been demonstrated to reduce adenoidal size, independent of the individual's atopic status. There is preliminary evidence of an improvement in the severity of OSA in children treated with intranasal corticosteroids, but further studies are needed before such therapy can be routinely recommended. Prescribing clinicians should take into account the potential benefits to the patient, the age of the child, the presence of comorbidities such as allergic rhinitis, the agent used, and the dose and duration of treatment when considering such therapy.