Published: March 11, 2024

#WorldVoiceDay: When to Worry about Pediatric Hoarseness

When parents should be concerned about hoarseness in children, and what to do if they suspect a problem.

Anne F. Hseu, MD, on behalf of the Voice Committee

Anne F. Hseu, MDAnne F. Hseu, MDIf your child is hoarse, it is essential to first identify the likely cause. Hoarseness in children can stem from various factors, including viral infections, vocal strain from excessive voice use or crying, allergies, or more serious conditions, such as vocal cord lesions or vocal cord paralysis. It is important to observe whether there are any accompanying symptoms such as difficulties breathing or swallowing, as these could indicate more severe issues requiring immediate medical attention.

If your child is otherwise acting normally, you can start with conservative measures, including having them avoid excessive yelling or shouting. Hydration is also key—so ensure your child drinks plenty of water. If symptoms persist for more than a few weeks without improvement, it is important to seek evaluation by your pediatrician or an otolaryngologist. 

Mother And Child With Sore ThroatYour child may also be referred to a laryngologist, or voice specialist. An office visit typically involves placing a small flexible scope through your child’s nose to examine his or her voice box. This examination lasts only a few minutes, and the majority of children are able to tolerate it with minimal discomfort.

Although most children with chronic hoarseness do not have a serious illness, it is important to rule out other more severe problems with a proper exam. Following that, treatments are meant to help your child have a steady voice so that they can communicate freely.

More from April 2024 – Vol. 43, No. 4