Mouth breathing is often a necessity, particularly when a respiratory infection closes your nasal passages with drainage. However, it’s not efficient, nor does it extend the benefits of filtration the way that nose breathing does. Still, should you be concerned when you notice your child frequently breathes through their mouth?
The answer is yes. Chronic mouth breathing is linked to slower growth, behavioral issues, and dental and facial abnormalities, making it a habit with serious health implications. Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat specializes in pediatric care, and they can help your child with the conditions that lead to chronic mouth breathing.
The value of nasal breathing
While your mouth provides a handy backup for breathing when your nose is plugged, it’s not designed for the task as elegantly as your nasal passages are. Hairs lining your nose serve as a first line of defense, filtering particles and pathogens from the air you breathe.
Taking air in through the nose warms and humidifies it, good conditions for respiratory health. And noses produce nitric oxide, an important stimulant of the cardiovascular and immune systems. Nitric oxide is picked up and transported through your body by breathing through your nose.
Reasons behind mouth breathing in children
It’s not likely a child who chronically breathes through their mouth made a conscious decision to do so, suggesting that there’s typically an underlying cause of mouth breathing. Here are some possibilities:
Mucus blockages can force reflexive mouth breathing simply because there’s no other way for your child to get enough air. They may have a cold, flu, or allergies, the same culprits that affect their older siblings and parents. However, due to their smaller nasal passages, an equivalent amount of mucus might be a bigger burden. As the cause clears up, nasal breathing should resume normally. Lingering allergies might extend the problem if your child is allergic to common indoor allergens.
It’s possible that a child could continue mouth breathing by habit, even after a nasal blockage has cleared. The duration of the average cold is a much greater portion of your child’s life than it is of yours. This might make it easier to acquire a habit in just a week or two.
The cartilage divider between the nostrils is rarely even or symmetrical, and an abnormality here, coupled with the overall small dimensions of young respiratory systems, could lead to conditions that make it always hard to breathe adequately through the nose. Mouth breathing will likely emerge as a symptom.
Mouth breathing at night, particularly when your child is on their back, could indicate the collapse of soft tissue in the throat. Sometimes, enlarged adenoids or tonsils could be responsible. You may recognize other symptoms, such as snoring, coughing, or breathing interruptions. This condition needs medical treatment, or it could become life-threatening.
Chronic mouth breathing is a health symptom you shouldn’t ignore. Contact Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat by phone at 307-672-0290, or online today to arrange a consultation to discover the root of your child’s problem, and avoid the chance that mouth breathing becomes habitual.