Stridor is a stertorous sound that occurs when a child is breathing through a narrowed larynx or trachea. Narrowing can occur due to a series of problems – for example, if a child inhaled foreign body – although it is usually a consequence of the swelling of airways after some respiratory infection, e.g. cold. A sudden stridor attack that is associated with respiratory infection is called croup.
In addition to the characteristic stridor sound, a child with croup will have symptoms of respiratory infection with coughing and hoarseness. Older children may complain about disturbances in the area of the throat or in the front of the chest.
Croup attacks usually occur at night. The child is awakened by the sudden, loud cough that gets stronger when the air is inhaled. The child is upset, scared, and confused. In most cases the seizure is calmed for several hours, but in some children the seizures are repeated.
What to do?
If the child is breathing hard and turns blue, especially around the lips, apply first aid measures and take the child as soon as possible to a doctor or hospital.
Self-help: during the croup attack, be calm and comfort a child that might be scared. Fear will only worsen the situation. If your baby has already had seizures, your doctor may have already given you some anti-seizures medicines; apply them.
Professional help: if your child has some basic respiratory infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. A child with breathing difficulties will be admitted to a hospital where he/she will get oxygen and possibly corticosteroids (by injections or spray) to reduce the inflammation of the respiratory tract. If there are severe throat discomforts, it will be necessary to insert the tube through the mouth in the windpipe or, in very severe cases, make a cut and insert the tube to allow the baby to breathe. The tube is usually taken out after 24 hours. Breathing sometimes (though rarely) must be maintained artificially by a respirator. Most children who have been admitted to hospital due to stridor are fully recovered after several days.