LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – July 10 is World Airway Disorders Day of worldwide awareness, support, and education.

There are 5 types of disorders that fall under the airway disorder umbrella. 

They are pharygomalacia, bronchomalacia, tracheomalacia, tracheobronchomalacia and laryngomalacia. A breakdown of them all is below. 

Keyundra Thompson’s 2-year-old son Zaire was diagnosed with laryngomalacia just weeks after he was born. 

Laryngomalacia is a disorder that affects the larynx (voice box) of infants. Laryngomalacia most often presents as noisy breathing or stridor as early as two weeks of age. Infants with laryngomalacia will have stridor and may also have difficulty in breathing, feeding, and gaining weight, failure to thrive, and respiratory distress. This can lead to poor quality of life and anxiety in parents. About 20% of infants diagnosed with IM will need surgical intervention.

A stridor is a high-pitched sound made when breathing.

According to the organization, Coping with Laryngomalacia, it affects 1 in every 2,500 infants.

“Every time they tell me there is a one in however many chances something will go wrong, my son is always that one,” Thompson said. 

Since giving birth to Zaire, the doctor’s office has been a frequent visit for Thompson. 

Zaire’s turns 3 years old in October. He has already had 12 surgeries. 

“After that first surgery, we thought it would be the end of the road,” Thompson said. 

Friday, Zaire was back at Little Rock Children’s Hospital for his 11th and 12th surgery. 

He had to get his tonsils removed and his adenoids revised.  

Due to all the operations, Zaire has to be fed through a tube because it hurts.

He also struggles to sleep because breathing is a hassle too, leading to restless nights for mommy.

“I stay up all night watching his pulse oxygen levels because, for me, I am scared that if I doze off too hard, he will stop breathing and I won’t catch it,” Thompson said.

Besides noisy breathing, some other signs to look for to see if your baby could have airway malacia are lung retractions, color change around the mouth, tracheal tug, and if your baby always sounds congested.

If you want to support World Airway Disorders Day, wear blue this coming Monday, July 10.

Pharygomalacia is the collapse of the walls of the pharynx. The pharynx is the area behind the nose and the mouth. It also surrounds the supraglottic structures. It can cause obstructive events but is mainly self-limiting.

Often it can be overcome with positive pressure or bypassing the collapsed nasal trumpet.

Bronchomalacia is very similar to tracheomalacia, however, in bronchomalacia the cartilage softening occurs in the bronchi of the lungs. Bronchi are branched off of the trachea and also have cartilage that can become soft and collapse. When this collapse occurs in the bronchi it is called Bronchomalacia. Bronchomalacia can be primary or secondary.

Tracheomalacia is a condition where the tracheal cartilage (windpipe) rings soften, partially collapsing when a child is breathing. This collapse most often occurs during expiration. Tracheomalacia may be primary or secondary. In *most cases* this is managed without surgical intervention.

Tracheobronchomalacia is a rare condition that occurs when the walls of the airway [specifically the trachea and bronchial are weak. This can cause the airway to become narrow or collapse. Most cases of primary tracheobronchomalacia are caused by genetic conditions that weaken the walls of the airway, while the acquired form may occur due to trauma chronic inflammation, and/or prolonged compression of the airways.