Tracheomalacia is a condition in which the walls of the windpipe (trachea) are very weak or soft. The windpipe is the airway that leads from the throat to the lungs. It is made of muscles and a tough flexible tissue called cartilage. Rings of cartilage support the windpipe and keep it open when you breathe. When a child has tracheomalacia, the windpipe may be so weak that it collapses and may block the airway.
Tracheomalacia is most common in infants and small children. Most of the time it is a birth defect. It may also develop if your child has:
Symptoms of tracheomalacia include loud noisy breathing and a loud barking cough. Your child may wheeze constantly. The wheezing may be worse when the baby cries, feeds, or coughs. Symptoms usually get better when the baby lies on his or her stomach or sleeps.
Most babies with this disorder seem happy and do not seem to be struggling when they wheeze. If tracheomalacia is severe, your child may struggle to breathe. Babies may not be able to breathe and eat at the same time and may not gain much weight.
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:
Tracheomalacia usually gets better without medical treatment by the time a child is 6 to 12 months old and goes away by 24 months of age.
If the condition is severe, does not get better, or slows your child’s growth, your child may need:
Children with this condition need to be carefully watched when they get colds or other respiratory infections because an infection can make their symptoms worse.
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions for treatment. Ask your child’s provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.