Stridor – Nothing sound about this!

Stridor is usually caused by a blockage in the windpipe or obstruction in the upper airway. It is important to detect the cause for the proper treatment of Stridor, as it can occur due to illness, infection, the presence of foreign objects or congenital throat abnormalities.



Inspiratory Stridor: It is caused by airway obstruction above the glottis.

Expiratory Stridor: It is indicative of an obstruction in the lower trachea.

Biphasic Stridor: It suggests a lesion in or below the glottis.


Laryngomalacia is the most common cause of chronic Stridor in children. Croup is indicative of acute Stridor.

Anatomy: The anatomical structure of a child’s airway can also be a cause of Stridor. The upper airway in children is shorter and narrower than that of an adult, and is therefore, more likely to lead to obstruction breathing problems.

Larynx Collapse
: This is a very common cause for Stridor. The narrowed or collapsed parts of the larynx (commonly referred to as voice box) cause obstruction in the airway.

Subglottic Hemangioma: Arare airway disorder in children, it is characterised by the formation of a mass, consisting of blood vessels in the voice box, which causes obstruction in breathing. The child may require a surgery if the obstruction is severe.

Vascular Rings: It is an unusual condition when the abnormal formation of the aorta or other structures like arteries or veins compress the airway or windpipe.

 Tonsillitis and ViralCroup can also cause Stridor in children.


Abnormal sound: Stridor can be identified with the abnormal sound when we breathe in or out.This sound indicates a problem with the tissue above or near the vocal cords.

Windpipe blockage: Expiratory Stridor creates discomfort particularly during breathing out, and is accompanied by abnormal sounds.The reason could be a blockage in the windpipe.

Shortness of breath: The individual may not be able to take deep, long breaths because of the narrowing of the windpipe.

Identifying and establishing the exact cause for Stridor is of utmost importance to treat Stridor accurately. The specialist may ask you questions that include:

  • Whether skin and nails have changed colour to blue
  • Whether the child has inserted any foreign object in the nose/mouth
  • If the person is finding it difficult to breathe
  • The rate of breathing
  • If the person is suffering from a cold or bronchial infection

The consulting physician may also prescribe tests such as X-rays, bronchoscopy and laryngoscopy for better diagnosis.

In the event that your specialist presumes a disease, he/she may advise you to undergo a sputum culture. This test checks mucus from the lungs for infections. It enables the specialist to check whether a contamination, for example, Croup is present or not.

Treatment options vary from person to person, depending on the age, cause and severity of the problem.

The Specialist may also:

  • Suggest that you visit an ENT specialist
  • Prescribe oral or injected medication to reduce swelling in the airway
  • Recommend hospitalization or surgery in acute cases

About the author

Best ent doctor hyderabad | Dr.GVK Chaitanya Rao

Dr. Chaitanya Rao, Managing director at Dr. Rao’s ENT group of hospitals has 10 years experience in the field of ENT.

His special areas of interest include Nose & sinus surgeries, Otology, Snoring and sleep apnea surgeries. During his Post-graduation itself he was invited as a visiting physician to House Institute of Medical sciences, Los Angeles; Rhinology and Anterior skull base unit, Ohio State University Medical Centre, Columbus, Ohio and University of Michigan from where he picked up his skills.

He plays a key role (Course Director & co-ordinator) in giving hands on training to around 150 ENT surgeons every year from all around the world for initiating and improving their ENT surgical skills as a part of Hyderabad ENT Research Foundation initiatives.

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