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

Published: 13th July 2010
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The article discusses the most important discoveries in this area and answers such questions as, "Should I worry about my 5 year old breathing through his mouth?"
"How to make children to breathe through their nose?"
"What are the causes for breathing through the mouth?"
"How to fix mouth breathing at night in children?"
"What are the techniques to deal with open mouth breathing when sleeping in toddlers?"
"Are these any special methods for infant mouth breathing?"
"What should I do with my infant noisy breathing?"

Problems with nose breathing in children, babies, toddlers and infants is an emerging problem facing parents and the medical community due to its devastating effects on the development of the young. In order to understand the broad scope of negative effects of mouth breathing, consider the titles of recent medical studies:
Prevalence of oral malodor and the relationship with habitual mouth breathing in children (Kanehira et al, 2004)
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)
A comparative study of effects of mouth breathing and normal breathing on gingival health in children (Gulati, 1998)
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)
The negative effect of mouth breathing on the body and development of the child (Flutter, 2006)

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

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

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

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 cell oxygenation in children, is to have normal (up to 98%) oxygenation of the arterial blood (due to tummy breathing since chest or costal 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 belly 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 waste, toxic gas.)

Reduction of CO2 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 O2 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 breathe, the more oxygen is provided for our cells
More methods, suggestions and techniques can be found here: Devastating effects of mouth breathing in children, babies, toddlers, and infants: their causes, effects, treatment, and prevention.

Artour Rakhimov (PhD) is health coach and author of books devoted to breathing education, natural self-oxygenation and breathing retraining.

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