Children are constantly growing; as a result, their immune systems and organs such as sinuses aren’t fully developed for a number of years, making them vulnerable to a variety of airway problems that can lead to breathing difficulties. Most are minor and easy to treat, but a few can pose serious health risks.
Pediatric Airway Problems
Children are susceptible to upper and lower respiratory tract infections, especially those in frequent contact with other kids (e.g. daycare or preschool). Colds, flu, allergies, sinusitis, croup, asthma, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia all make breathing difficult, with symptoms ranging from congestion and shortness of breath to wheezing and rapid breathing.
Acid reflux, or laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), is another condition that is known to cause airway problems in children. Sometimes referred to as silent reflux, LPR is similar to gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) but is not usually accompanied by heartburn. It occurs when stomach acids reflux into the throat, and results in difficulty swallowing, sore throat, cough, wheezing, and postnasal drip.
Other airway problems common in children include allergies, teething, asthma, and sleep apnea.
Treating Airway Problems
How your child’s airway problem is treated depends on a successful diagnosis of the condition responsible for his or her symptoms. Your child’s doctor will perform a physical exam and a careful review of their medical history, and may order a diagnostic test such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, laryngoscopy, or bronchoscopy in order to pinpoint the cause. Once established, a determination of the best options for treatment will be presented, based largely upon the underlying condition and severity of symptoms.