Anything that seems to affect the breathing of an infant can be alarming, including hoarseness without an obvious cause. While there is often a simple explanation, any hoarseness in a young infant should be addressed by a pediatrician. Infants are particularly susceptible to illness and infection and it is important to rule these out as causes for your baby's hoarseness.
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Excessive crying is a common cause of hoarseness in infants. While all babies cry to convey their needs, some cry more than others, such as those suffering from colic. Crying for an extended period of time can cause the vocal chords to swell, resulting in a hoarse voice. Most babies will grow out of excessive crying on their own as long as there is no underlying medical cause. Once the persistent crying has stopped, your child's hoarseness will usually clear up on its own.
Vocal Chord Nodules
In some cases, excessive use of the voice, including crying, can result in vocal chord nodules, which are callous-type growths that can appear on over-worked vocal chords. These nodules keep the vocal chords from closing properly, which causes hoarseness. Treating vocal cord nodules in infants can be difficult, as the treatment involves stopping the behavior that is causing the nodules to form--in the case of infants, excessive crying. The infant may simply have to outgrow the crying, but a doctor should always be consulted.
Any illness that involves congestion and post-nasal drip can cause hoarseness. Even if your child has a simple cold, mucus draining down the throat can irritate the vocal chords. While this isn't dangerous for your child, it is uncomfortable. Try clearing her nostrils with a bulb syringe to help her breathe easier. Any hoarseness associated with an illness should clear when the illness does.
Many babies suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as acid reflux. This condition occurs when stomach acids enter the esophagus and cause a painful burning sensation. Severe or frequent acid reflux can affect the vocal chords and cause your child to become hoarse. It is important to speak to your pediatrician if you suspect your baby is suffering from reflux, as it can impact his eating and sleeping habits. There are medications that can be prescribed as well as diet changes that can ease the reflux symptoms.
If your child has allergies that cause her to become congested, this congestion could cause her to become hoarse. As with illnesses, post-nasal drip from allergies can irritate the vocal chords. Some allergies can also cause the vocal chords to swell. It is important to identify what your child is allergic to as soon as possible to prevent the potential of a more severe allergic reaction. There are allergy tests that can aide in discerning this, so speak to your pediatrician.