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Noisy Breathing: Tests and Diagnosis

What tests are used to diagnose the cause of noisy breathing?

The most important way to determine the cause of noisy breathing is the child’s past medical history and exam. Additional testing is not always necessary. Depending on your child’s medical history and physical exam, the doctor may order tests to determine the cause of your child’s noisy breathing.

These tests include:

  • X-rays of the chest or neck
  • CT scans, a test that combines multiple x-rays to create a 3D image of the body
  • Fluoroscopy, an x-ray that shows movement so doctors can see how a child’s trachea looks while breathing
  • Pulmonary function tests, tests that show how much air a child can breathe in and out)
  • Bronchoscopy (.pdf) 
  • Laryngoscopy (procedures in which a doctor uses a tiny camera to see the inside of a child’s airways)

How do providers at Children’s Hospital Colorado make a diagnosis?

Noisy breathing is a symptom of many respiratory conditions. If your child’s breathing is often noisy, is noisy for an extended period of time after being sick, or your child is working hard to breathe using rapid breathing, retractions, sucking in the skin between the ribs or above the collarbones, or has or a bluish color around the mouth, you should see a doctor. Based on your child’s symptoms, medical history and a physical exam, the doctor may order more tests to determine the cause of your child’s noisy breathing.