Vocal Cord Paralysis in Children

Vocal cord paralysis occurs when one or both of the vocal cords do not open or close properly. Symptoms can range from mild to life threatening. Vocal cord paralysis can be be present at birth (congenital) or can be caused by medical conditions or even by surgery in the neck and chest. Sometimes a cause cannot be identified.


  • Change in voice volume and pitch
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing, especially after eating
  • Noisy breathing in some cases


  • Physical exam
  • Laryngoscopy to examine the vocal cords and the surrounding tissues
  • Imaging of the neck, chest and brain in some cases


It is important to treat the underlying disorder causing the paralysis. Generally, treatments include:

  • Surgery for persistent symptomatic vocal cord paralysis
  • Voice therapy and exercises to strengthen the vocal cords
  • Watchful waiting: In certain cases, the voice can return spontaneously within up to a year after onset of symptoms.

When to Call for Help

Call your pediatrician if your child has any of the symptoms listed above.

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