Laryngospasm: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Have you ever suddenly found that you can’t speak or breathe? You may have been experiencing laryngospasm, a rare but frightening side effect of GERD. Learn more about laryngospasm and how to treat it.

What causes laryngospasm?

In most cases, laryngospasm is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. People who have GERD experience frequent acid reflux, which exposes the esophagus to damaging stomach acids. In some cases, the acids can reflux all the way into the larynx. When the larynx or esophagus are damaged, the vocal cords can sometimes spasm, causing a momentary blockage of the airway and an inability to speak.

Laryngospasm can also be caused by anesthesia administered during surgical procedures. This is the most common cause of laryngospasm in children. This type of laryngospasm can be life-threatening.

How can you treat or prevent laryngospasm?

The best way to treat or prevent GERD-related laryngospasm is to treat the underlying condition. This may involve lifestyle changes, prescription medication or surgery to prevent continued episodes of acid reflux. Children who are affected by laryngospasm may need to be treated by tilting the head back to open the airway, as well as using a CPAP machine to deliver oxygen directly to the airway. In rare cases, a tube is inserted into the throat to assist with breathing.

If you suffer from frequent heartburn, difficulty swallowing, coughing, hoarseness, or other symptoms of GERD, talk to your doctor about acid reflux treatments that may prevent laryngospasm.

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