Stridor is an abnormal, high-pitched, musical breathing sound. It is caused by a blockage in the throat or voice box (larynx). It is most often heard when taking in a breath.
Children are at higher risk of airway blockage because they have narrower airways than adults. In young children, stridor is a sign of airway blockage. It must be treated right away to prevent the airway from becoming completely closed.
The airway can be blocked by an object, swollen tissues of the throat or upper airway, or a spasm of the airway muscles or the vocal cords.
Common causes of stridor include:
Follow your doctor's advice to treat the cause of the problem.
Stridor may be a sign of an emergency. Call your health care provider right away if there is unexplained stridor, especially in a child.
In an emergency, the health care provider will check the person's temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure, and may need to do the Heimlich maneuver.
A breathing tube may be needed if the person can't breathe properly.
After the person is stable, the health care worker may ask questions about the patient's medical history, and perform a physical exam. This includes listening to the lungs.
Parents or caregivers may be asked the following medical history questions:
Tests that may be done include:
Breathing sounds - abnormal; Extrathoracic airway obstruction; Wheezing
O'Handley JG, Tobin EJ, Shah AR. Otorhinolaryngology In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 19.
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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