Learning About Tracheobronchomalacia in Children

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What is tracheobronchomalacia in children?

Tracheobronchomalacia (say "tray-kee-oh-brong-koh-muh-LAY-shee-uh") is a rare condition that some babies are born with. The walls of your child's windpipe (trachea) and airways (bronchial tubes) are weak and soft. The weak walls can narrow or block the airways and make it hard for your child to breathe. The symptoms may not appear until after the first weeks or months of life. If the problem is mild, most children outgrow it by age 2.

What are the symptoms?

Your child may:

  • Have a cough that will not go away.
  • Feel short of breath.
  • Not be able to clear mucus from his or her throat.
  • Cough up mucus or blood.
  • Make a whistling sound when breathing in or out.

What can you expect when your child has it?

As your child grows, the walls of the trachea and bronchial tubes can get stronger and harder. Some children get better over time. But for some children, the condition may be severe and need treatment.

How is it treated?

Most children outgrow this condition when the problem is mild. Treatment depends on what symptoms your child has.

It's important to keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.

If the problem is severe, your doctor may talk to you about options such as:

  • Using CPAP, a small machine that helps keep your child's airway open. CPAP stands for "continuous positive airway pressure."
  • Inserting stents. These are small tubes that expand and help open the airway.
  • Surgery. The type of surgery will depend on how severe your child's condition is.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.