Upper Airway Obstruction

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An upper airway obstruction is a common cause of respiratory distress and failure in children. The upper airway includes the nasal cavity, pharynx (back of throat) and larynx (upper end of trachea, where the vocal chords are). The pediatric pulmonologists with Norton Children’s Pulmonology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, have the training and expertise to treat upper airway obstructions.

What Is an Upper Airway Obstruction?

An upper airway obstruction is when a part of the upper airway, including the nasal cavity, pharynx and larynx, becomes blocked. There are several common causes of a blockage:

  • Infection: Infections such as croup (infection that blocks breathing), epiglottitis (swelling of the windpipe) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Anaphylaxis: This is when the airway becomes swollen
  • Foreign body airway obstruction: This is when a foreign object is ingested or inserted, causing a blockage in the airway

Upper Airway Obstruction Symptoms

Symptoms of an upper airway obstruction may include:

  • Barking cough
  • Changes to a child’s voice or cry
  • Fast breathing
  • Flared nostrils
  • High-pitched whistling sound when a child breathes in
  • Hoarse voice
  • Poor chest rise when breathing in

Upper Airway Obstruction Treatment

The pediatric pulmonologists with Norton Children’s Pulmonology create a care plan unique to each child’s age, current health and health history. Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the upper airway obstruction.

Pediatric Pulmonary Center

Our center specializes in caring for children with any type of respiratory disorder. Careful consideration is given to prescribe the best possible method of therapy following nationally accepted guidelines for treating airway obstructions, where applicable.

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