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Hoarseness affects 6,000 children in the United States per year. The condition can be caused by many things including:
- Infections, like laryngitis
- Vocal cord nodules, often formed by misuse of the voice
- Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (warty growths in the voice box)
- Vocal cord paralysis
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD in children)
If your child has had a hoarse voice for longer than four weeks, then he or she should be evaluated by a pediatric otolaryngologist (ENT). Hoarseness can progress, or be a sign of a more serious condition, and it is critical that the diagnosis be accurate in order to provide effective treatment.
Our pediatric ENTs at the Johns Hopkins Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology are trained to recognize the different causes of hoarseness in children. Accurate diagnosis is made by a combination of comprehensive history and physical, including listening to a child speak and breathe, and may include more advanced diagnostic tools. Our experts are experienced in determining the exact nature of your child’s hoarseness.
Your child’s diagnosis will include:
- A complete medical history, a complete family history, and a thorough physical examination.
- Your doctor may order:
- Flexible laryngoscopy: A flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy is typically performed. During this procedure, a small flexible tube with a tiny camera is passed through the mouth or nose to examine the nasal passages, vocal cords, larynx, and upper airway. This is most helpful to visualize the structures and how they move to diagnose the cause of hoarseness. This is a brief and mildly uncomfortable, but not painful procedure, usually done during an office visit without any sedating medications.
- Hearing test
Hoarseness can be treated in a variety of ways. Depending on the diagnosis, your child’s pediatric ENT will recommend:
- Speech and voice therapy
In rare instances, when necessary, surgery will be performed to:
- Remove growths on the larynx
- Reposition paralyzed vocal cords caused by vocal paralysis
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