What Causes Noisy Breathing in Babies?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

My 7-week-old daughter has had noisy breathing since birth. Sometimes it has a harsh nasal sound, other times it seems to come from the chest. The sound ranges from gurgling to almost a croaking sound. Her pediatrician suggests that this is due to a narrowing of the air passageways and that the trachea needed to strengthen. She has some retraction in the area of the trachea. Are you familiar with this condition and is there any treatment? How long can I expect this to persist?

Doctor's response

The condition that you describe in which there is a narrowing in her larynx (voice box) is called laryngomalacia.

Laryngomalacia is a condition whereby the cartilage in her larynx is soft and with inspiration she tend to breathe deeply and thus pull in on the cartilage support type walls of the voice box and thus narrow the windpipe.

Presuming your child cries with a normal (not hoarse) voice and did not need any sort of instrumentation done as a newborn (e.g., put down a intubation tube into her windpipe secondary to meconium at birth), no real other evaluations are necessary besides a good and thorough examination by her pediatrician.

If symptoms should worsen significantly or she does not meet the above criteria, then a pediatric ENT doctor would be the place to go.

Thank you for your question.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018
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