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What is hoarseness?

Hoarseness is when your child's voice is raspy. If it is severe, your child can do little more than whisper. A cough is often associated with the hoarseness.

What is the cause?

Hoarseness lasting days is usually caused by a cold or croup virus (laryngitis). Another cause is overuse of the vocal cords (for example, yelling and screaming). Allergies to pollens or irritation from dust, chemicals, or pollutants can also cause a raspy voice from sticky mucus. Transient hoarseness lasting minutes can be caused by eating something or breathing something (such as powdered sugar) that irritates the vocal cords.

How long will it last?

Hoarseness from a virus infection usually lasts 1 to 2 weeks. Repeated voice strain (for example, from yelling) can cause thickening of the cords and a slow recovery.

How can I take care of my child?

Your child should gargle with warm water and suck on hard candy or cough drops several times a day. Younger children can sip warm liquids like apple juice. If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier. Don't allow anyone to smoke around children. Encourage your child to rest his voice and avoid the voice strain that comes from yelling and screaming. Encourage him to talk as little as possible for a few days. If the hoarseness gets really bad, have him whisper or write notes.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?


  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.

Call during office hours if:

  • The hoarseness continues for more than 2 weeks.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-15
Last reviewed: 2015-06-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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