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Learning About Laryngomalacia in Babies

What is laryngomalacia?

Laryngomalacia (say "luh-RING-go-muh-LAY-shuh") is a breathing problem caused by a large flap of soft tissue above the larynx. The larynx, or voice box, is part of your baby's windpipe. When your baby breathes in, the soft flap covers part of the larynx. That can make it hard for your baby to inhale.

This is a congenital condition. This means your baby was born with it.

In most babies, this condition ends by the time they are 12 to 18 months of age. This happens as the tissues around the larynx grow and mature.

Treatment may be needed if the condition causes trouble with feeding. Treatment may also be done to prevent future problems with the heart and lungs.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom is a high-pitched, squeaking sound when your child inhales. It may be louder when your child has a cold or chest congestion or is lying on his or her back.

If your child has severe laryngomalacia, he or she may:

  • Be short of breath.
  • Have interruptions in breathing while sleeping. (This is called sleep apnea.)
  • Have trouble feeding.

How is it treated?

  • In most cases, no treatment is needed. Your child will grow out of it.
  • Your child will have frequent checkups so the doctor can make sure that your child is gaining weight as expected.
  • In severe cases, where your child is having trouble breathing, your child may have surgery to remove the flap. This will allow air to flow normally through the larynx and into your baby's lungs. This will also help your baby feed properly.

Follow-up care is a key part of your baby's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.