Question: My 5 month’s voice has gone hoarse after a long crying episode. It happened about two days ago and I think his voice sounds raspy now and not as hoarse. He seems to have a hard time making the same high pitched sounds he used to be able to make during spontaneous vocalizations and during vocal play. What should I do, is this kind of hoarseness in infants common? Any help from your specialists would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Answer: Thanks for your question. Hoarseness for infants is not uncommon. It i quite comon for anyone, babies included, to develop hoarseness after vocal abuse. Certainly a long crying episode would fit.
When we breath- our vocal cords open to allow air to pass. When we speak or make noise, the vocal cords come together. They must come together smoothly for us to have a normal voice. However, when we speak loudly, or yell (or cry) – we are often banging the vocal cords together. This causes swelling, so that the closure becomes uneven and we percieve hoarseness. Most often, this is temporary, until the swelling goes down. Sometimes, we can develop a nodule or a polyp from this- which is really like a callus on the vocal cords. This would cause the poor voice to persist.
Using your voice minimally (modified voice rest) would help in the healing process. However, it is really impossible to get your baby to do so.
Almost always, his voice will come back to normal over the next few days or a week. If not, he should have an ear nose and throat doctor take a look at the vocal cords, (laryngoscopy) to make sure there has been no significant damage.
I hope this clears things up.
Robert Pincus MD
Associate Professor Otolaryngology NY Medical College
NY Otolaryngology Group