Skip to main content

Virtual visit appointments available 7 days a week from 9:00am to 11:00pm. Learn More

COVID-19 Updates

COVID-19 Updates: Get the latest on vaccine information, in-person appointments, virtual visits and more. Learn More

Does your child have noisy breathing?

Image Source

When should I worry about noisy breathing?

Having children is a joyous endeavor that alters our daily routines; it has its stressful moments as well. As parents, our number one focus is to provide our children with the best care possible as they grow. Children can make sounds when they breathe that can be frightening, and it can be challenging to know when to be concerned. Sometimes this “noisy breathing” can be the result of a cold or other conditions, such as laryngomalacia. Below is information to help guide you so you have a better idea of when to be concerned about your child’s noisy breathing.

Why does noisy breathing occur?

Noisy breathing is caused by the obstruction of any of portion of the airway passages, from the nose to the lungs. The term ranges from noises of stuffiness and wheezing, to harsher screeching sounds – called stridor. Infants will have noisy breathing as they learn to breathe and swallow their saliva.  

When is noisy breathing concerning?

Harsh, high-pitched noisy breathing that is consistently brought on by activity or feeding, and worse with colds or when lying on their back, are concerning signs of stridor potentially caused by laryngomalacia. An evaluation by your pediatrician is recommended.

Wheezing or noisy breathing induced by activity may be a sign of asthma, but also can be heard after choking on a foreign object. A suspected episode of choking and/or sudden noisy breathing with drooling could be a sign your child has swallowed an object and should be emergently seen.

In the winter season, fever, noisy breathing and a runny nose in a toddler may be bronchiolitis. If nasal saline rinses and suctioning do not improve your child’s breathing, please notify your pediatrician.

You should take your child to be seen immediately if there is a change in their voice, they turn blue or dark red around the lips, they are difficult to wake, or have difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing may be noticed by a faster breathing rate, nostril flaring and enlargement of their belly during inspiration and/or pulling of the skin inwards at the collar bone.

Does noisy breathing affect growth?

Your child’s growth can be limited by conditions that also cause noisy breathing. For instance, laryngomalacia can interfere with efficient swallowing which may result in inadequate caloric intake. Children may grow out of this condition, but surgery is recommended for those with poor weight gain. 

If you are concerned your child is suffering from noisy breathing or laryngomalacia, please contact otolaryngology to start the referral process.

Have you read these blogs?

If you're interested in learning more about Otolaryngology at Texas Children's Hospital, click here

Taylor Gilliland, M.D. Candidate 2018,