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By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Sudden hoarseness is often caused by an ordinary viral infection, for example a common cold that passes in the course of a week or so. However, children can also become hoarse by shouting loudly for a few days. If the child is hoarse and has trouble breathing at the same time, you must contact the doctor immediately.

Our voice arises from air pressed past the vocal chords. The vocal chords are two white folds placed inside the larynx. Hoarseness arises, if the vocal chords swell up. There are many possible causes for children becoming hoarse. The two most common are inflammation and overload of the voice that can lead to swelling of the vocal chords and the child becoming hoarse.

Far the most frequent cause of hoarseness with children is common cold that passes in the course of a week or so. More rarely, it can be caused by croup with the typical cough of a sea lion and very rarely by acute inflammation of the epiglottis.

Acute inflammation of the epiglottis is a feared and dangerous illness. It concerns an inflammation of the epiglottis, which is the lid of cartilage that is placed at the entrance of the trachea. The inflammation is most often caused by bacteria and in approximately 90% of the cases the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae is responsible.

Usually, the illness starts as a common cold with a sore throat but can quickly develop and the course may take a dramatic turn and lead to suffocation, if the child is not treated. The symptoms are caused by the mucous membrane on the epiglottis swelling up because of the inflammation. The swelling and pain increase as the inflammation enters the tissue. The pains in the throat become very powerful and the child has trouble sinking its own spit. There is also a fever and the child’s general condition is affected.

In day cares with a lot of children it can be necessary to yell to be heard. If children yell a lot, the vocal chords overload and the child becomes hoarse. If the child continues to overload its voice, lumps on the vocal chords may arise.

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There is no medication for hoarseness. If you suspect acute inflammation of the epiglottis, the child is hospitalised immediately and treated with antibiotics.

What can you do?

If you yell a lot so will your child. Tell your child not to distort its voice, to open its mouth when it speaks, avoid talking when there is too much noise or loud music and avoid talking while doing sports.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If your child is hoarse for more than 1 week.

Contact the doctor immediately

If your child is hoarse and has trouble breathing.