Noisy breathing   

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There are 3 main types of noisy breathing that Ear Nose and Throat Surgeons assess and treat.

As a matter of coincidence, these all start with the letter "S"

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    Snoring

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    Stertor

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    Stridor

The first one, Snoring, is well known to many parents (and dare we say it- the occasional wife and husband combination!). You can read more about this on the Tonsils and Adenoids page.

Stertor is noisy breathing that is mostly related to nasal obstruction. It can be described as a snorting type of noise. This is mostly due to blockage at the back on the nose caused by enlarged adenoids, but also may be due to blockage in the nose due to swelling of the turbinates from allergy or sinus problems, as well as structural abnormalities such as a deviation of the septum (the partition between the left and right sides of the nose).

Stridor is probably the one that worries most parents, as it is due to some form of blockage in the lower airway, usually in the voice box or the wind pipe. Another reason this diagnosis is potentially anxiety provoking is that it tends to occur in children who are only a few months old (and very occasionally from the time of birth). The noise is hard to describe but try to think of it as a mix between a grunt and squeak.

There are many causes for this type noisy breathing but the most important thing to be aware of, from a parent's perspective, is that if your child is making these noises then review by either a Paediatrician or a Paediatric ENT Specialist is worth discussing with your GP. It is the responsibility of these specialists to distinguish between causes of obstruction to the breathing that will resolve with time from those where treatment is required. Owing to the limitations of physical examination in newborns, it is sometimes necessary to perform an assessment on the airway using specialised telescopes. This is usually best done under a general anaesthetic. Whilst the idea of someone so young having a operation is unsettling for many parents, the reassurance they get from knowing exactly what is causing the breathing problems helps them deal with their concerns.

David McIntosh has training and experience in dealing with airway problems, including the many causes of Stridor, and we would be happy to organise an appointment for you so that you may discuss the problems your child is having.

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Last modified: 22/02/13