What is Hoarseness?
Hoarseness is a condition marked by changes in the pitch or quality of the voice, which may sound weak, scratchy or husky. Hoarseness can be caused by misuse or overuse of the voice, by viruses, growths on the vocal cords, such as cysts, papillomas, polyps and nodules, among others. Acid reflux from the stomach may cause hoarseness.
- Abnormally weak, breathy or coarse voice
- Change in voice pitch
- Depending on the underlying condition causing the hoarseness, other symptoms may be present. For example, a viral illness can also result in a sore throat, cough, sneezing.
- Some laryngeal growths can cause noisy breathing (stridor) or swallowing difficulties.
- Physical exam
- Throat exam
- Imaging tests of the vocal cords and throat may be needed
- Laryngoscopy (visualization of the larynx with a laryngoscope), usually performed in the doctor's office
The underlying cause will determine the treatment so proper testing and diagnosis are crucial. Hoarseness caused by viral infections will go away on its own most of the time. Bacterial infections must be treated with antibiotics.
When to Call for Help
Call your pediatrician if your child has any of the above symptoms. Call your pediatrician immediately if:
- Hoarseness is accompanied by drooling or difficulty breathing, especially in a young child
- Hoarseness develops in a child under 3 months of age
- Hoarseness doesn’t go away in a week
At Hopkins Children’s, hoarseness is treated by the Division of Otolaryngology.