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When Your Child Has Laryngomalacia

Your child has laryngomalacia. This is a condition that causes your child to have noisy breathing. Although the breathing may be loud, your child is not choking. This condition usually goes away over time. Outline side view of child's head showing inside of nose, epiglottis, and trachea (windpipe). Arrow shows smooth air flow through nose, past epiglottis, and into trachea. Outline side view of child's head with arrow showing air flow partially blocked by folded-over epiglottis and soft larynx.

What Is Laryngomalacia?

Laryngomalacia occurs because the upper part of the voice box (larynx) is floppy or soft. This area of the larynx is called the epiglottis. The job of the epiglottis is to help keep food from getting into the windpipe (trachea). When your child breathes in (inhales), the floppy epiglottis collapses, causing your child to have noisy breathing.

What Causes Laryngomalacia?

It is not known why the condition occurs in some children. What is known is that it’s not your fault or the fault of your healthcare provider.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Laryngomalacia?

Stridor is the high-pitched sound that’s made when your child breathes in. It is the most common symptom of laryngomalacia. Stridor may sound worse when your child is lying on his or her back or if he or she has a cold. It may also worsen as your child grows and becomes more active. This is normal. Stridor will stop as the condition goes away.

How Is Laryngomalacia Diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor will take a medical history and examine your child. The doctor will likely refer you to an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in care of the ears, nose, and throat (ENT). In some cases, a laryngoscopy (a test that lets the ENT doctor see inside the larynx) is also done. With a laryngoscopy, a thin, usually flexible scope is passed through the nose or mouth into the throat. It allows the ENT doctor to look for problems with the epiglottis, larynx, and the area around the larynx.

How Is Laryngomalacia Treated?

In most cases, the condition fixes itself. It usually goes away by 18 months. As your child grows and develops, the epiglottis will likely become stronger and no longer collapse during breathing.

 

Call the doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Has trouble breathing.

  • Turns blue in the face.

  • Makes excessive noise while breathing when running or playing.

Tips to Reduce Reflux

Babies with laryngomalacia may have trouble keeping food down. This means food often comes back up into the mouth (reflux). Follow any instructions the doctor gives you to reduce your child’s reflux. The following precautions for feeding your child can help:

  • Hold your child in an upright position during feeding and at least 30 minutes after feeding. This helps keep food from coming back up.

  • Burp your child gently and often during feeding.

  • Avoid juices or foods that can upset your child’s stomach, such as orange juice and oranges.

  • Talk to your child’s doctor if food comes up a lot during feeding. You may be told to give your child less milk to avoid reflux.

  • Never lie your baby flat on his or her back with a propped bottle.

 

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