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Stridor

Definition:

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.



Alternative Names:

Breathing sounds - abnormal; Extrathoracic airway obstruction; Wheezing



Considerations:

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.



Causes:

Common causes of stridor include:



Home Care:

Follow your doctor's advice to treat the cause of the problem.



When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Stridor may be a sign of an emergency. Call your health care provider right away if there is unexplained stridor, especially in a child.



What to Expect at Your Office Visit:

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:

  • Is the abnormal breathing a high-pitched sound?
  • Did the breathing problem start suddenly?
  • Could the child have put something in the mouth?
  • Has the child been ill recently?
  • Is the child's neck or face swollen?
  • Has the child been coughing or complaining of a sore throat?
  • What other symptoms does the child have? (For example, nasal flaring or a bluish color to the skin, lips, or nails)
  • Is the child using chest muscles to breathe (intercostal retractions )?

Tests that may be done include:



References:

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.




Review Date: 5/14/2014
Reviewed 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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Atlantic Medical Group
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Morristown Medical Center

100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
973-971-5000

Overlook Medical Center

99 Beauvoir Avenue
Summit, NJ 07901
908-522-2000

Newton Medical Center

175 High Street
Newton, NJ 07860
973-383-2121

Chilton Medical Center

97 West Parkway
Pompton Plains, NJ 07444
973-831-5000

Goryeb Children's Hospital

100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
973-971-5000

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Atlantic Medical Group

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