When is Noisy Breathing Something to Worry About for Children

Worried mother waking her child up from noisy breathing to give her some water and soothe her throat

Sometimes noisy breathing in children is not a big deal, and it will resolve independently. However, in other cases, noisy breathing may be cause for concern. If the sound of your child’s breathing is worrying you, it’s typically best to schedule an appointment with an experienced pediatric pulmonary specialist as soon as possible. 

This article provides a brief overview of the most common causes of children’s noisy breathing, including wheezing, stridor breathing, and stertor breathing. 

While it’s great to conduct online research, it’s important to note that this article is not a substitute for professional medical care. Contact the award-winning pediatric pulmonology specialists at Newport Children’s Medical Group today to schedule an appointment

Learn more about changes in your child’s breathing sounds below. 

Three Types of Noisy Breathing to Know 

Identifying the exact causes of noisy breathing generally requires a pediatric pulmonology physician’s medical knowledge and experience. 

It’s the best way to know the core reasons for your child’s loud breathing and what treatments to consider. Taking action as soon as you recognize abnormally persistent or recurring noisy breathing is essential to a fast and healthy recovery. 

Listed below are the three common reasons for noisy breathing patterns in kids. 

Wheezing in Children 

Wheezing sounds usually come from the child’s lungs. In most cases, the wheezing sound is high-pitched and occurs on exhales. However, sometimes, it happens on inhales as well. Generally, wheezing can occur via multiple factors like: 

  • Asthma 
  • Choking 
  • Viral infections 
  • Allergies 
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnea 

Stridor in Children 

Stridor is typically a bit louder and more unsettling than wheezing. Children with stridor may give off a high-pitched sound when breathing. Generally, it’s a result of a partially blocked airway. Further, stridor can involve the lungs, nose, throat, mouth, trachea (windpipe), and more. 

Stridor can occur via various factors, including but not limited to: 

  • Injuries (typically jaw or neck)
  • Congenital birth defects 
  • Viral infections like tonsillitis adn croup
  • Objects or food stuck in a child’s upper airway 
  • Toxic substances swallowed by children 
  • Allergic reactions 
  • Upper respiratory infections 
  • Congenital heart conditions 

If you suspect your child (especially infants) has stridor, it’s essential to have them checked out by an experienced pediatric pulmonology specialist as soon as possible. 

Stertor in Children 

Stertor is a common breathing noise heard in children. Generally, it’s the sound of congestion. It sounds similar to snoring. In many cases, it’s benign and will resolve itself as the child recovers from a cold. However, it’s a sign of a more serious condition in some cases. 

How Does a Pediatric Pulmonary Physician Diagnose Noisy Breathing in Children? 

It’s not always easy to diagnose noisy breathing in children. That’s especially true if you’re a parent or care provider. In many cases, noisy breathing resolves itself once the child’s illness passes. However, if it doesn’t or it comes back again, you should seek the help of a pediatric pulmonology specialist as soon as possible.

A specialist can determine the root causes and best treatment plan by noisy breathing by using the following tools and methods, but not limited to:

  1. Chest X-ray – Helps to determine if there are blockages. 
  1. Flexible Bronchoscopy – This method provides a clear picture of the airways and any blockages. Unlike rigid bronchoscopy, a child is conscious during this procedure and does not require anesthesia. 
  1. Swallow Study – A diagnostic test used to determine if the child’s airways are compressed and functioning correctly. 
  1. Laryngoscopy – A procedure physicians use to check out the voice box (larynx), throat, and upper airways. Laryngoscopy is an in-office procedure. 
  1. Nasopharyngoscopy – This exam detects abnormalities and causes of noisy breathing. A Nasopharyngoscopy consists of inserting an endoscope into the nose for a clear view of what’s going on.

If your child’s pediatric pulmonology specialist suspects sleep apnea, they also may recommend your child undergo a sleep study. In addition to the tests discussed above, a physician will also consider your child’s age, medical history, and special circumstances. 

It’s important to note that if your child is having trouble breathing (i.e., laboring while taking a breath), you should call 9-1-1 or get them to the nearest Emergency Room. 

Contact a Pediatric Pulmonology Specialist Today

If your child’s noisy breathing is persistent, reoccurring, or otherwise concerning, it’s in their best interest to see a pediatric pulmonary specialist as soon as possible. Contact Newport Children’s Hospital today to schedule an appointment with a compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced pediatric pulmonary specialist.