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Mouth breathing problems in toddlers, infants, babies and children: and what is normal and healthy

Difficulties with nose breathing in the young (babies, children, toddlers and infants) is a new problem that challenges our society and parents due to its overwhelming negative effects on our young generation. What are its causes, effects and methods of prevention and treatment?

There are many absolutely real concerns of parents related to mouth breathing in chidlren. Even many doctors cannot provide a clear and real-life solutions related to causes of mouth breathing and its prevention.

One can realize the broad scope of pathological effects of mouth breathing just considering the titles of recent research studies:
Prevalence of malocclusion among mouth breathing children: do expectations meet reality? (Souki et al, 2009)
Radiological evaluation of facial types in mouth breathing children: a retrospective study (Costa et al, 2008)
Etiology, clinical manifestations and concurrent findings in mouth-breathing children (Abreu et al, 2008)
Relationship between mouth breathing and postural alterations of children: a descriptive analysis (Krakauer et al, 2000)
Prevalence of oral malodor and the relationship with habitual mouth breathing in children (Kanehira et al, 2004)
The negative effect of mouth breathing on the body and development of the child (Flutter, 2006)
A comparative study of effects of mouth breathing and normal breathing on gingival health in children (Gulati, 1998)

Revealed effects of mouth breathing in babies, children, toddlers and infants are:
- Facial changes (long face, half-open mouth and increased anterior facial height)
- Malocclusion
- Higher levels of Gingival index
- Obstructive deviation of the nasal septum
- Postural alterations
- Allergic rhinitis
- Enlarged adenoids
- Enlarged tonsils
- Oral malodor.
(Abstracts related to these medical research findings are on my website.)

Usual clinical manifestations of problems with nose breathing in the young include:
- Sleeping with mouth open
- Nocturnal sleep problems or agitated sleep
- Nasal obstruction
- Snoring
- Itchy nose
- Drooling on the pillow
- Irritability during the day

Main causes of poor health and mouth breathing in children are:
- Over-feeding of children by parents
- Mouth breathing parents
- Sleeping on their back (except infants, who should sleep on their back while tightly swaddled)
- Over-heating (too much clothing)
- Lack of physical activity (or exercise with mouth open)
- Junk food and lack of essential nutrients in diet (fish oil, Ca, Mg, and Zn)

In comparison with normal breathing in adults (8-12 breaths/min), normal breathing in the young is more frequent (newborns: 40-46 breath/min; infants: 20–40 breaths/min; preschool children: 20–30 breaths/min; older children: 16–25 breaths/min). The crucial thing, however, for maximum body oxygen content in children, is to have normal (up to 98%) oxygenation of the arterial blood (due to diaphragmatic breathing since costal or chest breathing reduces oxygen delivery to lower parts of the lungs and blood), but with higher cellular carbon dioxide content. Therefore, ideal breathing is very slow and small, but using the tummy only. (Note that there are many uneducated and silly people, who believe that “Deeper breathing means more oxygen for the body” and promote the myth that “CO2 is a toxic, waste gas.)

Reduction of carbon dioxide in the body, in fact, is the main reason and mechanism why oral breathing is so damaging. As with healthy adults, normal breathing in children is very quiet or inaudible and almost invisible. CO2 plays the key role in oxygen delivery due to its vasodilatory properties (expansion of blood vessels) and facilitating effects (O2 release in tissues due to the Bohr effect). Hence, the less we breatheBusiness Management Articles, the more oxygen is delivered to our tissues). This is the law of physiology confirmed by thousands of research studies.

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More information and detailed instructions related to key lifestyle factors are provided here: Mouth breathing problems in children:  causes, effects, treatment, and prevention.

Artour Rakhimov (PhD) is wellness educator and the author of the educational website Problems with Breathing Solved: heavy breathing, chest breathing, breathing techniques, diseases and breathing, body oxygenation index, Buteyko Table of Health Zones, and many other topics are considered on pages of this website.

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