Acute Laryngitis — Paediatrics
Laryngitis is an acute respiratory disease, in which inflammation of the larynx is produced. The larynx is the lower part of the throat where the vocal cords are found. The vast majority of cases are caused by respiratory viruses. It generally affects children aged between 6 months and 6 years. It is more common in the cold months.
It is characterised because the child has a dry and strong cough, similar to the barking of a dog (barking cough) associated with hoarseness or loss of voice (aphonia). It is sometimes accompanied by a hoarse noise when breathing (when the child inhales) called stridor. Inflammation of the larynx can hinder the entry of air and cause respiratory distress (fast breathing, in which the ribs are visible when breathing or the chest sinks) only on some occasions. At the beginning of the illness, the child may have nasal mucus and also a fever for a few days. Laryngitis generally worsens at night.
- Some children are relieved by breathing moist air: Avoid a dry environment at home, put water tanks on the radiators. If you have a humidifier or evaporator you can use it. If you do not have a humidifier device, turn on the hot water taps in the bathroom so that it is filled with steam and sit down with your child (outside the shower) for 10-20 minutes.
- Breathing cold air can improve the symptoms: cold air has the ability to reduce inflammation of the tissue that covers the airways. In the cold months, you can let the child breathe air from the street by taking them to the window wrapped up.
- If the child has a high fever, administer the antipyretic recommended by their paediatrician. In this case, we prefer ibuprofen due to its anti-inflammatory action. Monitor the child's breathing.
- It is normal for your child to lose their appetite. Do not force them to eat.
- Offer them liquids.
- They do not need antibiotic treatment, as it is a viral infection. Alcohol and water neck collars should not be used. They are not effective and they may irritate the skin. Do not administer syrups or suppositories for the cough without consulting their paediatrician.
WHEN SHOULD I CONSULT URGENTLY?
- When there is noisy breathing (stridor) when the child is quiet.
- If they have respiratory distress: they are breathing increasingly quickly, their ribs are visible, their stomach moves a lot, their chest sinks or their neck stretches.
- If they have a whitish or bluish colour around their mouth. When the child has difficulty swallowing or drools a lot.
- If their symptoms worsen.
WHAT CONSEQUENCES DOES IT HAVE?
- The vast majority of cases of laryngitis are mild, are cured by themselves and do not require more treatment than that already mentioned.
- In cases in which the child presents with noisy breathing (stridor) or respiratory distress, treatment may be required to reduce inflammation of the larynx with medications such as corticosteroids (strong anti-inflammatory).
HOW CAN IT BE PREVENTED?
Laryngitis is very contagious and there is no vaccination against it. The best way of reducing the chances of infection is to wash your hands frequently and to avoid contact with people suffering from respiratory infections.