Obese adults have an increased prevalence of pulmonary disorders. Although childhood obesity is a common problem, few studies have evaluated the pulmonary complications of obesity in the pediatric population. We, therefore, performed pulmonary function tests (PFTs), polysomnography, and multiple sleep latency tests (MSLTs) in 22 obese children and adolescents [mean age, 10 +/- 5 (SD) years; 73 percent female; 184 +/- 36 percent ideal body weight], none of whom presented because of sleep or respiratory complaints. PFTs were normal in all but two subjects. Ten (46 percent) subjects had abnormal polysomnograms. There was a positive correlation between the degree of obesity and the apnea index (r = 0.47, P < 0.05), and an inverse correlation between the degree of obesity and the Sa0(2) nadir (r = -0.60, P < 0.01). The degree of sleepiness on MSLT correlated with the degree of obesity (r = -0.50, P < 0.05). We conclude that obese children and adolescents have a high prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing, although in many cases it is mild. Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) improved following tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. We recommend that pediatricians have a high index of suspicion for OSAS when evaluating obese patients, and that polysomnography be considered for these patients.