Management of acute severe upper airway obstruction in children

Paediatr Respir Rev. 2013 Jun;14(2):70-7. doi: 10.1016/j.prrv.2013.02.010. Epub 2013 Apr 16.


There are many causes of acute severe upper airway obstruction (UAO) in children. The timing of symptom onset and the presence of fever will help to distinguish infectious from non-infectious conditions. Signs and symptoms from congenital malformations often present at birth but may also develop over time. The most common cause of UAO in children is croup. Choking on a foreign body also occurs relatively frequently. Evaluation of the child with UAO starts with a detailed history followed by a thorough physical examination, including an assessment of severity. Severe airway obstruction will result in respiratory failure. This situation requires an immediate response. A child with partial airway obstruction may initially have an adequate airway. However, this situation can deteriorate rapidly. Therefore, providing supportive care and mobilizing resources for definitive airway management may be the most appropriate interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Airway Obstruction / diagnosis
  • Airway Obstruction / therapy*
  • Child
  • Disease Management*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Severity of Illness Index