Nearly everyone has heard an adult or a child with a hoarse, raspy voice. But what happens when the person with hoarseness is a baby? What caused it and what can you do about it?

What is hoarseness?

Hoarseness is a common term used to describe a strained, raspy, or breathy voice, associated with changes in loudness or pitch, that often requires increased effort to use.

What is making my baby hoarse?

Hoarseness in infants has a number of causes. One of the most common is overuse. If a baby is crying too much, this can strain their vocal cords. This is no different than when you spend too much time cheering at a concert or sporting event. In rare cases, crying may also put enough stress on the vocal cords that your baby may develop nodules.

Jad Jabbour, MD

If your baby is sick, extra phlegm might be in their throats. Babies often can’t effectively clear their throats, so this buildup can affect their voices.

Acid reflux, which is common in babies, can sometimes lead to swelling in the voice box that may also contribute to hoarseness.

In very rare cases, your baby may have something more serious, such as weakness of the vocal cords, a congenital defect of the voice box, or even a tumor, CEENTA ENT doctor Jad Jabbour, MD, said. Often, a scope exam to evaluate the voice box will help determine if such a condition is present and what treatment would be best for it.

How do I treat my baby’s hoarseness?

If your baby is crying a lot, and their hoarseness is thought to be due to overuse, there is unfortunately no treatment other than to calm and soothe them as you likely would anyway. If you are trying to allow them to cry for a reason such as sleep training, their hoarseness should not keep you from that goal, Dr. Jabbour said.

If their vocal issues are caused by illness or acid reflux, treating the underlying condition can help with the hoarseness. Your child’s doctor may prescribe medicine, depending on the condition and its severity. If your child is thought to have one of the rarer conditions listed above, your doctor may recommend further testing or even a surgical procedure, though non-surgical management is often sufficient.

If you are uncertain about what is causing your baby’s hoarseness, don’t hesitate to take them to a CEENTA ENT doctor. They will be able to diagnose your child and help you come up with a plan to make them sound and feel better.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. Jabbour practices in our SouthPark office. Are you looking for a pediatric ENT doctor? Call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.

Is hearing loss normal when you're pregnant? Learn more in this blog.

Does your baby have a feeding disorder? Learn more in this blog.

What happens to a child's voice when it changes? Learn more in this blog.





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