7 Possible Reasons Your Baby Is Sounding Hoarse

When it comes to baby’s breathing, any slight change is sure to set off alarm bells. We’ve all been there, listening over the crib with one hand on their tiny chest to make sure you can feel movement.

Despite how much reading or educational videos you’ve endured, you’ll still need reassurance from your pediatrician every now and then. A problem that may require a trip to the doctor’s office, is if your baby’s breathing sounds hoarse. This can be caused by a number of issues, some more serious than others.

1. Allergies

Just like you and I, babies can suffer from reactions to everyday allergens, and their reactions are often the same. Irritable, unhappy and uncomfortable are a few symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Generally, babies can be allergic to exactly the same things that most adults can be, and will probably need the same medical management also. Examples of known triggers for allergic reactions include:

  • Tree/grass pollen—these allergies are worse at certain times of the year.
  • Dander from pets—a major allergen for many. Dander is not just the hair itself from the animal, but the urine, flaked skin and saliva too.
  • Mold and mildew—not always visible in the home. Spores are microscopic and can trigger reactions with invisible cause.
  • Dust mites—reactions to dust can be worsened by vacuuming.
  • Food allergens—the most common are egg, milk, nuts, fish, shellfish and soy.

If you suspect your baby is allergic to something, record any triggers to their symptoms. This may help rule out any serious causes.

Symptoms of allergic reactions in infants include:

  • Skin rashes.
  • Coughing.
  • Sneezing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Hoarse sounding voice.
  • Stomach upset.
  • Itchy eyes.

If your baby has excessive coughing following each visit to Grandma’s, and she has cats, it’s likely an allergy. However, try not to worry. Over-the-counter drugs are available to aid prevention, even for babies, like antihistamines and decongestants.

If you aren’t keen to use pharmaceuticals, you could try a dehumidifier, switch laundry detergents or use allergy reducing bedding. Purchasing allergy filters for your air conditioning unit may also help.

Don’t go and clear Target of every anti-allergy product just yet. Other causes for hoarseness in little ones may not require any of them.

2. General Illness

Has your baby got the sniffles after being smothered in kisses from your toddler who is constantly germ-collecting at daycare?

It is impossible to prevent illnesses in young children. Their immune systems are still delicate, and unfortunately, that makes them more susceptible to every bug around. The culprits for hoarse voices in babies are often respiratory-related illnesses.

Colds and chest infections cause excessive mucus, which leads to coughing. Coughing is just the body’s reaction to try and clear the airways, but too much can cause the hoarse voice.

Again, there is little we can do when it sounds as though your baby’s chest is rattling. Cough medicines, using menthol ‘breathe-easy’ plugins, and vapor rubs can help.

3. Croup

Although croup is in fact an illness, it is very specific in means of symptoms and treatment. This is why it is not included in the general illness category.

Croup can have several causes, mainly bacterial or viral infections, leading to swelling and irritation of the larynx and trachea. The most common is a viral infection called human parainfluenza.

As the windpipe narrows, the voice box is impacted, causing hoarse noises, rasping, wheezing or a barking cough in your baby. Croup is distinguishable to even the untrained ear, by the barking noise which is made when coughing.

Croup can often resolve in around a week, without the need for medical attention.

However, if your child is experiencing fever, hoarseness/barking, and having problems breathing, bring it to your doctor’s attention immediately.

Treatment of croup depends on its severity. Over-the-counter medicines, such as pain relief and cough medicines, can be used, but only on your doctor’s advice. In more severe cases, antibiotics and steroid therapy, to help open the airways, may be needed.

4. Reflux

It is important to know the difference between what is normal and what isn’t when trying to figure out if this is what is causing a hoarse cough in your baby. Acid reflux may also be a contributing factor.

Spitting and vomiting can sometimes be involuntary in infants, without any cause for concern. This is usually age-related, due to the constantly developing muscles and strengthening of a babies gullet over time, and will likely stop.

However, if your baby is vomiting excessively, more so after feeding, this could be due to a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Bringing up excess stomach acid can be painful, as well as cause coughing and gagging—hence the hoarse throat. If you are concerned, get it checked out. There are remedies available to help.

5. Teething

Along with the trauma of birth, learning to sleep without comfort and all the other hard things our babies have to endure, teething is probably one of the worst.

Excess saliva is produced when babies are starting to get their milk teeth. This extra spit can cause your baby to gag sometimes, or even cough, which may lead to a hoarse sounding throat.

6. Excessive Crying

Have you ever cried so much it sends you into a bit of a coughing frenzy? If so, I guess not much explanation is needed here. If not, lucky you!

Constant crying and wailing, for whatever reason, can essentially give your little one a rough sounding voice. If they seem to be crying excessively and you think they are in pain, get them checked out in case there is an underlying issue.

7. Vocal Cord Palsy

This is a surprisingly common condition, where vocal cords do not function as they should, and can cause little voices to sound hoarse.

As terrifying as it may sound, this condition can be managed conservatively or with medical intervention, depending upon severity.


There are so many potential issues for such small beings. A raspy, hoarse voice isn’t exactly pleasant, and causes us parents to worry so much that something serious may be wrong.

Whether you suspect your child has an allergy, or they are unwell with cold-like symptoms that aren’t disappearing, there is no harm in contacting your pediatrician for advice or a check-up.

Avoidance of anyone with coughs and colds (or hairy pets!) is impossible, as we are surrounded by allergen antagonists in the air around us.

There are ways to ease symptoms of a hoarse voice in your baby. However, do remember that when it comes to over-the-counter medications for an infant, to speak with pharmacy staff or your doctor first.

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