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Snoring…can it be caused by allergies?

Published on Nov 21, 2011 with 35 comments

Snoring is caused by the turbulence of inspired air as it moves through a partially obstructed airway.  Snoring is so common that we generally dismiss its potential harmful effects or its significant causes.  Even though many adults snore, it should not be viewed as a minor noise issue disturbing only to one’s sleep partner.  In some cases, it may be a symptom of a more serious problem.

Snoring is extremely common in both men and women, especially those who are obese and those with large necks.  In these individuals, snoring is generally caused by a narrowed breathing passage as their thick soft palate relaxes, approaching or meeting the back of the tongue during sleep.  Nasal congestion is also a common contributor to snoring.

As snoring is caused by a partially obstructed airway, snoring in children is never a normal condition.  And, noisy breathing or snoring in babies and toddlers is always abnormal and should be evaluated to ascertain the area of obstruction.  In children, snoring is commonly caused by enlarged adenoids and/or tonsils in combination with nasal congestion.

A serious complication of snoring is obstructive sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea can occur in children, although it is much more common in adults.  Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes totally obstructed, albeit temporarily.  A sleep study is necessary to diagnose sleep apnea, and to ascertain its cause and level of severity.  But, sleep apnea is generally suspected even before formal diagnostic testing in individuals who snore loudly and whose snoring abruptly stops for several seconds.  This period of quiet, which can last as long as 15-20 seconds, is generally interrupted abruptly by a strong snore, sometimes awakening the patient in a startle.  This pattern of interrupted breathing (snoring then quiet, snoring then quiet, etc) can literally occur hundreds of times through the night.  Patients with obstructive sleep apnea are generally very tired during the day and easily fall asleep when not engaged in physical activity.  They are chronically sleep deprived and can exhibit symptoms such as irritability and headaches.

Snoring results from a combination of many factors.  It therefore needs to be evaluated by a board certified ENT physician or a Sleep Specialist.  Even though allergies may be the cause of the nasal congestion, allergies must be considered only a contributory factor, and not the primary cause of snoring.


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