A variety of airway problems can cause breathing difficulties in children. They range from minor to serious, and treatment is dependent upon the underlying condition.
Pediatric Airway Conditions
Upper and lower respiratory tract infections are common in children, whose immune systems are still developing. Colds, flu, croup, sinusitis, bronchiolitis, asthma, and pneumonia all produce symptoms that make breathing difficult. These include stuffiness, shortness of breath, wheezing, and rapid breathing.
Reflux is another condition that affects children. Known as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), it occurs when stomach acids back up into the throat as the result of the esophageal sphincter muscle failing to close properly. Also known as silent reflux, the condition mimics gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), minus the painful heartburn. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, sore throat, coughing, postnasal drip, and wheezing. Over the long term, it can lead to malnutrition and weight loss.
Additional conditions that cause airway problems in children include allergies, teething, and sleep apnea.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your child’s doctor will need to diagnose the condition responsible for the airway problem in order to treat it successfully. In addition to a physical examination and a review of your child’s medical history and current symptoms, diagnostic testing may be employed to help narrow the cause. Possible tests include x-rays, CT scans, MRI, laryngoscopy (an examination of the vocal cords with a tube-mounted camera), and bronchoscopy (checking the lungs and trachea using a similar device).
There is no single treatment plan for pediatric airway problems. With such a diverse array of possible causes, treatment will be based on the underlying condition and could involve anything from making dietary changes to medical and surgical solutions.