A rough or raspy quality of the voice, brought about by conditions that alter the normal anatomy or function of the vocal cords. The following are the most common causes in children:
- Laryngitis, or inflammation of the vocal cords. Usually laryngitis is a component of a viral upper-respiratory infection and is accompanied by coughing and runny nose. In croup, hoarseness is accompanied by a barking cough and, in more severe cases, by labored breathing. Sometimes the child’s voice will be reduced to a whisper. With rare exception, as the infection resolves, the voice will gradually return to normally over one to two weeks.
- Overuse of the vocal cords, from continual loud talking and yelling. (Among teenagers, this sometimes occurs following overzealous cheering at sporting events or concerts.) Persistent abuse of the vocal cords could lead to thickening or the development of nodules on them, which could perpetuate hoarseness. Speech therapy may be necessary to help a child or adolescent change vocal patterns that are causing this problem.
Less common causes of hoarseness in children include:
- The presence of one or more papillomas, warty growths on the vocal cords caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus can be acquired during birth if a child’s mother has a genital IPV infection, although hoarseness is typically not noted until two to four years of age.
- Vocal cord paralysis, which usually results from injury to nerves in the neck that control vocal-cord movement. This can occur at birth or from trauma or surgery.
Acute hoarseness, whether brought on by infection or by overuse of the vocal cords, will normally resolve on its own if the voice is allowed to rest for a few days by whispering or maintaining quiet conversations. But any acute hoarseness associated with difficulty in breathing, especially when bursts of harsh coughing leave a child gasping for air, should be evaluated by a physician. If a child is clearly in distress, he should be taken to an emergency center immediately.
If hoarseness continues for more than a few weeks, the child’s doctor should be contacted. In some cases, a near, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist will be asked to evaluate the problem, especially if there is concerts about a possible abnormality of the vocal cords.
Homeopathy systems of alternative medicine are based on the theory that certain diseases can be treated or cured by giving extremely small doses of substances (chemicals, minerals, or even poisons) that in larger quantities would produce the symptoms of the disease being treated. Homeopathy’s theory of disease causation and treatment is not recognized as valid in the mainstream scientific community, and the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments remains controversial.