Stridor: what is this, causes, symptoms, diagnostics, treatment, prevention

Stridor; Breathing sounds – abnormal; Extrathoracic airway obstruction; Wheezingstridor

What is stridor?

Stridor is a high-pitched whistling sound., caused by forced breathing due to airway obstruction of the throat or upper airways. Most often heard during inspiration. Stridor is primarily a sign of upper airway obstruction and may be a medical emergency..

Causes of stridor

Stridor is caused by upper airway obstruction and can be caused by a number of different conditions.. The most common cause is laryngomalacia, state, in which the soft tissues of the back of the larynx (voice box) collapse into the respiratory tract, disrupting the air flow. Other causes include:

  • Vocal cord paralysis/vocal cord paralysis. One or both vocal cords can be paralyzed for a number of reasons., such as stroke, tumor or injury. It may cause difficulty in breathing, leading to stridor.
  • Aspiration of a foreign body occurs, when a foreign object enters the airway and causes an obstruction. It is a common cause of stridor in children..
  • Chronic respiratory diseases. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and cystic fibrosis can cause stridor as a result of airway obstruction.
  • Tumors. Tumors in the airways can cause obstruction and stridor.
  • Infection. Respiratory infections, such as cereal, epiglottitis and tracheitis, can cause inflammation of airway structures and lead to stridor.
  • Birth defects. Birth defects of the respiratory tract, such as laryngomalacia, can lead to stridor.

Stridor symptoms

The main symptom of stridor is a high-pitched wheezing sound., heard during inhalation (inhalation). Other symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Labored breathing
  • Vomiting/gasping
  • Difficulty weight management
  • Cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Low oxygen saturation
  • Blowing nose

When to contact a healthcare professional

If you or your child experience any of the above symptoms, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Seek immediate medical attention, if the person has trouble breathing or turns blue from lack of oxygen.

Questions, that your doctor may ask

Your doctor will ask you a series of questions, to help diagnose the cause of stridor, including:

  • What are your/your child's symptoms?
  • When symptoms first appeared?
  • Have you/your child been exposed to any foreign objects or respiratory infections recently?
  • Have you/your child been exposed to any environmental irritants?, such as smoke or pollution?
  • Are there any other medical disorders, that can cause stridor?

Diagnosis of stridor

To diagnose the cause of stridor, your doctor, probably, appoint a medical examination, and may also order a chest x-ray, computed tomography or ultrasound. He may also order blood tests and/or other tests., to help diagnose the cause of stridor.

Stridor treatment

Treatment for stridor will depend on the underlying cause.. Depending on the cause, treatment may include medication, surgery or a combination.

  • Medicines. Your doctor may prescribe medication depending on the cause., that relieve the symptoms of stridor. These may include bronchodilators, corticosteroids, antibiotics or anticholinergics.
  • Surgery. In some cases, surgery may be required to relieve obstruction or repair damaged airway structures..

home treatment for stridor

In some cases, home treatment may be recommended in addition to medical treatment.. The following home treatments may help relieve stridor:

  • Maintaining good hydration – drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can help reduce the severity of stridor.
  • Avoidance of stimuli. Avoidance of environmental irritants, such as smoke and pollution, may help reduce stridor.
  • head up. Elevating your head while you sleep may help keep your airways open and reduce stridor..
  • Air humidification. Using a humidifier can increase air humidity and reduce stridor.
  • Using a Cool Mist Vaporizer. Using a cool mist vaporizer may help keep your airways open and reduce stridor..

Stridor prevention

The following measures may help reduce the risk of stridor:

  • Nose cleansing. Keeping the nose clean by regularly flushing out mucus can help reduce the risk of upper airway obstruction..
  • Allergy treatment. Allergy treatment can help reduce the risk of upper airway obstruction.
  • Avoid smoking. Smoking can aggravate the symptoms of stridor, therefore it is important to avoid smoking and passive smoking.
  • Avoid contact with allergens and other environmental irritants. Allergens and other environmental irritants can cause or worsen stridor, therefore it is important to avoid or reduce exposure.
  • Treatment of chronic respiratory diseases - treat chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to reduce the risk of developing stridor.


Stridor is a high-pitched whistling sound, caused by forced breathing due to airway obstruction. It is most commonly heard during inhalation and may be a sign of an upper airway obstruction..

Stridor is caused by a number of different conditions, including laryngomalacia, paralysis of the vocal cords, foreign body aspiration, chronic respiratory diseases, tumor, infections and birth defects.

Stridor symptoms include a high-pitched wheezing sound during inspiration, chest pain, labored breathing, gagging/choking, difficulty swallowing, cough, hoarseness, low oxygen saturation and nasal swelling.

If you or your child experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor. Treatment for stridor will depend on the underlying cause and may include medication., surgery or a combination.

Home treatments may also be recommended to relieve stridor..

The risk of stridor can be reduced, maintaining good hydration, avoiding stimuli, Smoking Area, curing allergies and properly treating chronic respiratory diseases.

Used sources and literature

Griffiths AG. Chronic or recurrent respiratory symptoms. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Bloom NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 401.

Rose E. Pediatric upper airway obstruction and infections. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 162.

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