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Continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) therapy is widely used to alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea, a condition characterized by heavy snoring and temporary loss of breath during the night. Millions of adults have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Additionally, roughly 1 to 4 percent of children experience apnea symptoms before reaching adulthood.
For most children, enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids are the root cause of sleep apnea. Removal of the tonsils and adenoids can reduce, if not eliminate, apnea symptoms. However, children who continue to experience sleep apnea may qualify for CPAP therapy. CPAP can also help children who experience apnea due to other reasons, such as obesity or an enlarged tongue.
CPAP therapy involves a machine that draws in outside air, humidifies and pressurizes the air, and then delivers it to the child through a connective hose and breathing mask. Mask choice is critical for children with apnea. Many experience facial discomfort when using large/heavy masks, and some mask models are designed for easier breathing through the nose and/or mouth than others. It’s important to note that, by law, purchasing a CPAP mask requires a doctor’s prescription.
This guide will look at common designs for children’s CPAP masks and provide some tips for choosing a suitable model. Below, we’ll go over our top three picks for children’s CPAP masks sold today. These selections are based on verified customer and owner experiences, along with our own product research and analysis.
ResMed Mirage Kidsta CPAP Mask and Headgear
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Best Lightweight Mask
ResMed Pixi CPAP Mask and Headgear
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Best Mask for Toddlers
Philips Respironics Wisp CPAP Mask
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Many children struggle with CPAP therapy due to the size, shape, and appearance of their breathing mask. The ideal CPAP mask for children should be non-invasive, lightweight, and fairly minimalist to ensure proper use and compliance.
For our Editor’s Pick, we’ve selected the ResMed Mirage Kidsta. This nasal cradle mask is outfitted with silicone wall cushions for added padding and comfort. The mask does not hinder the child’s line of sight. Its frame is also very lightweight and specifically sized for smaller facial dimensions. The mask also comes with headgear that can be adjusted and set into place with easy click-on parts.
The ResMed Mirage Kidsta is widely available for less than $100, making it very reasonable in terms of cost. ResMed also offers a 90-day warranty.
Most pediatric CPAP masks are lightweight by design, since most children cannot bear the same amount of weight as adults. The ResMed Pixi is our pick for Best Lightweight Mask largely due to its headgear, which is made of soft neoprene that weighs much less than plastic and other headgear materials. This allows children 2 and older to use the mask.
The ResMed Pixi is a nasal cradle mask cushioned with silicone on both sides for added comfort. The headgear does not block line of sight, which can be helpful for exceptionally young children who find bulky, obstructive masks intimidating. A quick-release button allows the child and their parents to quickly remove the mask in the event of an emergency. The connective hose can also be positioned on either side of the face.
Like the ResMed Mirage Kidsta, the Pixi is very reasonably priced – expect to pay less than $120 for the mask and headgear. The product is also backed by a 90-day warranty.
Many CPAP masks – even children’s models – are not sized for toddlers because sleep apnea is rarely diagnosed in children under 3 years of age. The Wisp CPAP Mask from Philips Respironics is a notable exception. This model comes in three sizes, including a small size option for children as light as 22 pounds. Medium and large sizes are also available for larger toddlers.
The mask and its headgear are designed with a fun giraffe print that should help toddlers acclimate to CPAP therapy without fear or anxiety. Soft silicone cushions pad both sides, making the mask comfortable for all wearers. The headgear has one-click locking mechanisms for easy adjustments, as well as a leak correction dial to loosen or tighten the mask whenever airflow is compromised.
The Philips Respironics Wisp is somewhat expensive compared to other children’s CPAP masks, with a typical price-point of about $150. However, the product comes with a two-year warranty, which is longer than average.
Sleep apnea affects millions of adults, and many children are also diagnosed with the condition. Many doctors seek alternative treatments for their young patients, but if symptoms persist then CPAP therapy will likely be the most effective option.
CPAP therapy can be scary and intimidating for some children. The machines used during therapy can be loud and disruptive to sleep. Additionally, the breathing masks required for CPAP can be invasive, uncomfortable, and somewhat jarring – especially for very young children.
This guide will discuss how CPAP masks work and which designs are best for children. We’ll also cover prescription requirements and some tips for assisting children with CPAP therapy.
Please note: Tuck.com is not a medical website. Our tips about children’s CPAP masks should never replace advice from a licensed physician. If your child has been diagnosed with sleep apnea or you believe they are showing symptoms of that condition, please speak with your doctor about mask recommendations and other aspects of your child’s health.
Approximately 1 to 4 percent of children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Of these cases, many fall between the ages of 2 and 8.
Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by temporary loss of breath during sleep, as well as heavy/chronic snoring. Although specific symptoms vary by patient, there are two general types of sleep apnea based on root cause. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs due to a physical obstruction blocking the airway. Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain is unable to signal the muscles that control breathing.
Pediatric sleep apnea is the name for sleep apnea that affects children. The root causes for pediatric sleep apnea differ from those for adult sleep apnea. According to the Mayo Clinic, pediatric OSA often occurs due to one or more of the following:
The Colorado Children’s Hospital also notes the following causes for pediatric CSA:
Pediatric OSA and CSA are both characterized by the following symptoms:
Regardless of the child’s age, parents should consult a doctor if they notice sleep apnea symptoms. Most physicians will discuss symptoms with the child and their parent(s), conduct a physical exam, and, if need be, order a sleep study for the patient.
Most sleep studies require the child to stay overnight in a hospital or specialty clinic. Technicians monitor the child’s brain waves, oxygen levels, heart rate, muscle activity, and breathing to discern whether or not they have sleep apnea.
Alternatively, doctors may prescribe an oximetry, or take-home, sleep test. However, oximetry tests tend to yield inconclusive results, so an overnight sleep test may also be needed. Doctors may conduct an electrocardiogram test, as well, since heart conditions have been linked to pediatric sleep apnea.
Children with mild sleep apnea symptoms may not necessitate treatment. In fact, many outgrow their symptoms by the time they reach adulthood. However, many physicians elect to monitor the child’s symptoms to ensure no long-term complications.
For others, the Mayo Clinic notes that the following treatment methods may be needed:
CPAP therapy may, under some circumstances, be the best option for children with sleep apnea. The therapy is commonly prescribed for:
CPAP therapy involves air that has been pressurized to a fixed setting. This setting, listed in the CPAP prescription, is based on the patient’s sleep apnea symptoms and breathing patterns. The air is also humidified using a built-in or external humidifier. For this reason, the air delivered during CPAP therapy is measured in centimeters of water, or cmH20.
Many people have different breathing patterns during inhalation and exhalation. Because CPAP therapy involves one fixed setting, it can cause discomfort for some users – particularly during exhalation. Bi-level positive air pressure (BiPAP) therapy includes two fixed pressure settings, one for inhalation and another for exhalation, which can help some users breathe more easily. For some children, BiPAP therapy may be the most suitable option, though it is not prescribed to treat pediatric sleep apnea as often as CPAP therapy.
A third option, automatic positive air pressure (APAP) therapy, does not have a fixed pressure setting. Instead, the machine will adjust pressure settings throughout the night based on the user’s breathing patterns. However, APAP is a fairly new alternative to CPAP and has not been extensively studied with regard to pediatric sleep apnea.
CPAP, BiPAP, and APAP therapy require the following hardware components:
The CPAP machine, humidifier, and connective hose are usually sold together as one unit. The final component of CPAP therapy is the breathing mask, which is sold separately from the others. The mask also requires a prescription.
Every mask model is unique, but most CPAP masks sold today fall into one of three general categories: full face, nasal cradle, or nasal pillow. It’s also important to note that most breathing masks are universally compatible with all CPAP machines, as well as BiPAP and APAP machines. The table below outlines the differences between these three mask types.
|CPAP Mask Type||Full Face||Nasal Cradle||Nasal Pillow|
|Appearance||The mask forms a seal from the bridge of the nose to the chin, covering the entire nose and mouth||The mask forms a seal from the bridge of the nose to the upper lip, with a chinstrap to keep the jaw closed||The mask fits into both nares (nostril openings), but does not cover any other part of the nose or mouth|
|Size/Availability||Widely available in men's and women's sizes Pediatric sizes are very rare||Widely available in men's and women's sizes This is the most common mask type for children||These masks are somewhat rare in men's and women's sizes Virtually non-existent for children|
|Pros for Child Users||Straps and headgear keep the mask in place if the child tosses and turns This is the best option for children who struggle breathing through their nose and/or those who primarily breathe through their mouth||Because this is the most common mask type for children, buyers can choose from a fairly wide selection of brands and models This is the best mask design for children who primarily sleep on their sides||This is the least expensive and invasive CPAP mask type|
|Cons for Child Users||The masks can be somewhat heavy and bulky The effect of wearing a full face mask can have a jarring effect on children, particularly those under the age of 5 Full face masks in child sizes are very rare||The mask can cause some irritation where the mask and headgear come into contact with the face||The mask's design can lead to nasal dryness, nosebleeds, and other uncomfortable side effects Nasal pillow masks are not generally made for children|
|Average Price Range||$80 to $150||$80 to $120||$50 to $75|
As you can see from the table, a nasal cradle mask will most likely be the most suitable option for a child receiving CPAP therapy. Our top picks reflect this, as all three are nasal cradle masks.
Next, we’ll answer some common questions about prescription requirements for pediatric CPAP masks.
|Does my child need a prescription for their CPAP mask?||Yes. The CPAP mask, along with the machine and humidifier components, are classified as Class II medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And as such, the FDA regulates the sale of these devices. Other CPAP components, such as the connective hose and the machine's air filter, do not carry this classification and will not require a prescription.|
|Can I buy a pediatric CPAP mask without a prescription?||
|Who can write a prescription for my child's CPAP mask?||
|What does the pediatric CPAP mask prescription need to say?||
Many children struggle with the loud noises, bulky headgear, and airflow delivery of CPAP therapy. The following strategies can alleviate some of the child’s fears and anxieties about using CPAP equipment, and also help parents mitigate their child’s apnea symptoms.
If your child has sleep apnea and struggles with CPAP therapy, talk to your family doctor about other tips and strategies to help them acclimate to CPAP in a healthy, responsive way.
For more information about CPAP masks and other aspects of CPAP therapy, please visit the following guides on Tuck.com: