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What is stridor?

Stridor is a high-pitched sound that is usually heard when a child breathes in (inspiration). It is usually caused by an obstruction or narrowing in your child's upper airway. The upper airway consists of the following structures in the upper respiratory system:

The sound of stridor depends on location of the obstruction in the upper respiratory tract. Sometimes, the stridor is heard when the child breathes in (inspiration) and can also be heard when the child breathes out (expiration).

What are the causes of stridor?

There are many different causes of stridor. Some of the causes are diseases, while others are problems with the anatomical structure of the child's airway. The upper airway in children is narrower than that of an adult and therefore more susceptible to problems with obstruction.

The following are some of the more common causes of stridor in children:

Congenital causes (problems present at birth)

Infectious causes

Traumatic causes

Other causes

How is stridor diagnosed?

Stridor is usually diagnosed relying on the medical history and physical examination of your child. It is important to remember that stridor is a symptom of some underlying problem or condition. If your child has stridor, your child's physician may order some of the following tests to help determine the cause of the stridor:

The specific treatment for this condition depends on many factors and is tailored for each child. Please discuss your child's condition, treatment options and your preferences with your child's physician or healthcare provider.

Treatment may include:

Reviewed by: Steven D. Handler, MD, MBE
Date: April 2009

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