Congenital Laryngeal Stridor in Babies

What is congenital laryngeal stridor?

Congenital laryngeal stridor is a noisy or high-pitched sound with breathing. It is from an abnormally formed voice box (larynx). It's present at birth (congenital).

What causes congenital laryngeal stridor?

Congenital laryngeal stridor is the most common cause of noisy breathing (stridor) in babies. During the baby’s development, the larynx may not fully develop. As a result, part of the larynx is weak. This causes the larynx to close part of the way during breathing.

What are the symptoms of congenital laryngeal stridor?

The main symptom is the stridor that is heard as the baby breathes. It's best heard when a baby breathes in. It can also be heard when the baby breathes out.


  • Changes with activity

  • Is present during eating, sleeping, or excitement

  • Is usually less noisy when the baby is lying on their belly

  • Gets worse if the baby has an upper respiratory infection, like a cough or cold

The symptoms of congenital laryngeal stridor can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is congenital laryngeal stridor diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your baby’s symptoms and health history. They will give your baby a physical exam. The provider may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. Your baby may need diagnostic tests such as laryngoscopy. This is a test to look at the larynx.

How is congenital laryngeal stridor treated?

In most cases, congenital laryngeal stridor is a harmless condition that goes away on its own. Although not common, some babies develop severe breathing problems that need treatment. Treatment may include medicines, a hospital stay, or surgery.

Treatment will depend on your baby’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

What are the complications of congenital laryngeal stridor?

In severe cases, congenital laryngeal stridor may be a sign of a blocked airway.

Living with congenital laryngeal stridor

Your baby’s healthcare provider will recheck your baby. They will make sure your baby is eating well and gaining weight.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call your baby’s healthcare provider if your baby is:

  • Not eating well

  • Not growing well

  • Has symptoms that get worse or new symptoms develop

  • Acting different or strange

Call 911

Call 911 or your local emergency number if your baby has any of the these:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Skin or lips look blue, purple, or gray

  • Unable to swallow or make verbal noises

  • Unresponsive or less responsive

Key points about congenital laryngeal stridor

  • Congenital laryngeal stridor is an abnormally formed voice box (larynx). It's present at birth (congenital).

  • The stridor is usually heard when the baby breathes in, but it can also be heard when the baby breathes out.

  • Procedures to diagnose congenital laryngeal stridor may include laryngoscopy or bronchoscopy.

  • In most cases, congenital laryngeal stridor is a harmless condition that goes away on its own.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ashutosh Kacker MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2022
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