Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

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 - stridor

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 health care provider'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 provider right away if there is unexplained stridor, especially in a child.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

In an emergency, the provider will check the person's temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure, and may need to do abdominal thrusts.

A breathing tube may be needed if the person can't breathe properly.

After the person is stable, the provider may ask about the person'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 their 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

Caro DA. Basic airway management. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine: Clinical Essentials. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 1.

Hern HG. Pharynx and throat emergencies. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine: Clinical Essentials. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 29.

Review Date:5/18/2016
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.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Health
Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Read More

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
         Yes
         No
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?
         Yes
         No