Laryngospasm: Symptoms, Causes and Remedies

Laryngospasm: Symptoms, Causes and Remedies. Laryngospasm is a rather common medical condition characterized by an involuntary contraction of the vocal cords that causes a brief and partial breathing blockage. While the blockage lasts less than a minute and only prevents breathing in (not breathing out), the fact that it catches people by surprise may result in panic.

This is especially true for small children as well as first time sufferers. Laryngospasm is often accompanied by symptoms such as stridor (a high-pitched sound during inspiration), difficulty breathing in, air hunger, retractions of the chest wall due to reduced air pressure inside the chest as a result of the breathing blockage as well as fear, anxiety and panic attacks due to experiencing a feeling of imminent death. Some people may experience watery eyes and sudden and excessive sweating.


Laryngospasms can occur both in children and adults, both during the day and during the night. In the latter case, they are often triggered by acid reflux and will most likely cause sufferers to wake up from their sleep. When it comes to children, laryngospasm represents a potentially serious medical condition that needs to be addressed by a medical professional immediately. Children are much more susceptible to oxygen deprivation and lack the control needed to manage the breathing blockage.

Types of laryngospasm. The condition can be classified as minor laryngospasm and illness-induced laryngospasm. The former occurs and resolves by itself and sufferers are advised to keep calm and breathe slowly until the attack passes. Drinking water can also help clear allergens. The latter can be a result of illness affecting the airways, acid reflux, allergy, hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels), anesthesia or various medical procedures acting on the vocal folds. In this case, sufferers need to address the cause of their laryngospasm attack such as taking acid reflux medication or keeping away from potential irritants or allergens.

Laryngospasm remedies What are the causes of laryngospasm?
1) Gastroesophageal reflux. Laryngospasm occurring especially at night is often caused by gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux. If your healthcare provider suspects acid reflux is causing your laryngospasm, he or she can prescribe special medication (antacids) to treat the condition causing the laryngospasm. When dealing with a midnight laryngospasm attack, remember to keep calm, breathe slowly and drink water at regular intervals. It is important that the water be at room temperature.

2) Low humidity. Low humidity in your home means the air might be too dry and this may trigger laryngospasms. A good night’s sleep requires air moisture to be between 40% and 50%. While setting pots of water on radiators or stoves or leaving damp clothes to dry in the room might create a little bit more humidity, you can achieve more by purchasing a good humidifier. The use of indoor heating during winter in particular can make air humidity drop as low as 10%, in which case you will need a good humidifier to help prevent the lining of your throat (and nose) from drying and causing laryngospasms.

3) Sore and dry throat. Everytime our throat lining becomes dry and sore, we are at risk for laryngospasms. Contracting the flu or a common cold or any other respiratory disease for that matter will most likely cause a sore throat, while air pollutants, irritant substances, pollen, allergens, cigarette smoke or swallowing salty sea water will cause your throat lining to dry out. Practicing good hygiene, avoiding going out on hot and dry, windy days and staying away from irritants can significantly help reduce laryngospasm frequency.

While keeping yourself away from irritants, allergens, cigarette smoke, maintaining good humidy levels in your home and avoiding outdoor activities on dry, windy days can be great ways of reducing the risk for laryngospasm, it is just as important to know how to act when you feel your airways are closing and you cannot breathe properly.
So here are 7 great useful tricks and remedies for dealing with laryngospasm:

1) Keep calm and breathe slowly. Keping as calm as possible when having a laryngospasm not only helps you better assess the situation and see if you should seek medical help or not, but also allows you to preserve your energy, sanity and control over your breathing. Panicking can increase your oxygen need and, since you are already not getting enough air, it might just make things worse. Reember to avoid talking, unnecessary movements or physical effort.

2) Drink water. Slowly sipping on room-temperature mineral water (not sparkling water) when having a laryngospasm is extremely important. More often than not, laryngospasms are triggered by allergens or irritants acting directly on the throat lining. Water helps render such substances inactive which can stop the spasm almost immediately. Make sure you have a glass of water within arm’s reach at all times. Also, make sure the water is at room temperate so you don’t stress your larynx even more.

3) Hot steam. In the event of a severe crisis, get some water and go straight to the bathroom. Turn the hot water on in the shower, sink, etc. and let it fill the bathroom with hot steam. The entire bathroom should fill with steam in less than a minute. Not only will the hot steam increase air humidity to a maximum, allowing you to breathe better, but it will also help inactivate allergens and irritants from your hair, throat, nose and clothes. Sip water slowly and try to relax and breathe the steam into your lungs. After the crisis has passed, remember to change your clothes (which may also contain allergens) and keep well hydrated.

4) Pay attention to colds and flu. Laryngospasms may occur with greater frequency when you cough or when your throat is full of phlegm due to a cold, for example. Practicing good hygiene and staying away from crowded places in flu season can make a great difference when it comes to preventing laryngospasm.

5) Treat your gastric reflux. Seen that acid reflux is a major trigger for laryngospasm, make sure you treat the condition properly by taking antacid medication prescribed by your doctor. Also, remember to never lie in bed as soon as you’ve eaten (digest first, then sleep) and learn to avoid the foods and beverages that may irritate your throat and stomach lining (spicy foods or foods that you might find particularly hard to digest, such as bell peppers or garlic; coffee, sodas).

6) Drink herbal teas. Drinking a not-too-hot cup of tea every now and then can have a beneficial effect on your vocal cords, helping them relax and reducing laryngospasm occurrence. Herbal infusions made from camomile, echinacea, lavender or Rooibos, for example, help relax your throat area and reduce inflammation that may contribute to worsening the condition.

7) Take your vitamin C. I speak from experience when I say that taking vitamin C supplements daily can improve your health considerably, especially when it comes to laryngospasm, asthma or allergies. If you feel your throat and vocal cords are irritated or inflammed due to exposure to allergens, cigarette or any kind of smoke, irritants and so on, pour youself some water and take an effervescent vitamin C tablet of 1000 mg. The water will help inactivate allergens, while vitamin C will act as a potent local anti-inflammatory that can potentially prevent a laryngospasm crisis.

While it is a serious medical condition, laryngospasm can not only be kept under control, but also successfully prevented, should you learn to avoid the causes triggering it. Remember to remain calm, breathe slowly, avoid talking, turn on your hot water faucet in the shower and let steam fill the bathroom and drink room-temperature water in sips. Should you feel, at any point, overwhelmed, ask for medical help.

12 thoughts on “Laryngospasm: Symptoms, Causes and Remedies

  1. I have recurrent episodes of Laryngospasm due to a Neurological condition known as Kennedy’s Disease. My Bulbar region muscles are affected which causes the spasm. My spasms often last for several minutes. Your statement stating they last for less than a minute is incorrect.

    • Hello, Mr. Mager. You are suffering from a type of illness-induced laryngospasm, in your case, Kennedy’s Disease. This is a progressive neurological and muscular disease, meaning the symptoms of the disease will get worse in time, as your condition progresseses. In other words, yours is a particular case I have not addressed in my article. Laryngospasms generally last for about one minute. Your condition is not called laryngospasm; your condition is called Kennedy’s Disease and it comes with its own set of symptoms. In reality, what you are experiencing is a form of muscular atrophy. Lots of health.

  2. I had laryngospasms for three months. The episodes occurred day and night. I slept with a humidifier every night and even spent a lot of time breathing in warm humidified air from the steam in the shower.

    With all of the reports about humidifiers forcing out bacteria a minerals, is it possible my humidifier was making matters worse? I have since replaced the humidifier I was using with a evaporative one that does not emit bacteria or white dust. Since that change I haven’t had any respiratory issues. Neither has my wife. I even put a smaller version of the same evaporative humidifier in my 2 year old daughters room and she hasn’t had any congestion or respiratory issues in almost a year. That’s incredible considering the amount of episodes she had in her first year.

    Again, is it just a coincidence or was my standard humidifier part of the problem?

    • Standard humidifers can raise the humidity in a room to higher levels than recommended or needed. Evaporative humidifiers generally have a sort of self-regulation mechanism meaning they should decrease their vapor output as the humidity in the room raises. It really depends on the brand and model and you should choose one according to your needs. To my knowledge, if you suffer from laryngospasms or allergies, then vaporizers may prove a better choice because they release steam, which is basically a sort of warm vapor. And this is better than the cold vapor or cold mist of some humidifiers. But changing a standard humidifier with an evaporative one could explain why your health has improved. Too much humidity, which can be caused by a standard humidifier, creates the perfect environment for mold and dust mites growth which can, of course, prove problematic for people with certain allergies and laryngospasms. Is it also possible that you are allergic to dust or dust mites, maybe mold or even polen from certain plant species? Because if you are, then your first humidifer might have put all of these potential allergens out there for you the breathe them. In any case, always go for a good brand and quality humidifiers, evaporators or vaporizers, even if they might be more expensive than you would like them to be. And remember to check their instructions because some may require cleaning in between uses. I do not know what type of humidifer you have been using, during what period of time your laryngospasms occurred so, yeah, it might have been the humidifer itself or something else such as allergens.

  3. Happened a few days ago while out at the grocery store. I’ve never had one as bad as this one (total 100% no air). I always thought it was normal to choke easily. It wasn’t until I got home and googled it that I realize this is exactly what I have. I always thought how can I suddenly choke on nothing? After being totally embarrassed at the grocery store and people calling 911 for me, I realized this can’t be normal. No one ever talks about this. There are probably so many others like me who have no idea that is what’s happening. What’s even more scary is that I’ve had surgeries and there could have been some danger involved and the doctor should know I have this.

    • Hi, Maria. Laryngospasms can be worrisome and it would be wise to talk to your doctor about this and maybe investigate it further to exclude potential allergies and simply know what you should avoid in the future. It could have been the air conditioning and dry air in the grocery store, dehydration leading to dry throat and so on. But just to be sure and avoid such episodes that are not at all pleasant and might leave you fearing the next one, it might be best to try and figure out what is causing your laryngospasms so you can learn to control and prevent them. Wishing you lots of health.

  4. Hello. I recently had this happen to me and I was freaking out and I see that it says drink room temperature water. Will that help? Because I was trying to gasp for air and the water part doesn’t seem too good. I’m just new to this and worried about it.

    • Hello, Chris. It is best you see a doctor and have him or her investigate the cause of your laryngospasms because there are so many factors that can trigger episodes. You have to know the cause of your laryngospasms to know how to manage and prevent them. Drinking room temperature water helps most when laryngospasms are caused by dry throat and mouth, however, you don’t know if this is your case. There are numerous aspects to consider, such as giving up coffee or alcohol, smoking, caffeinated beverages, dark chocolate, green and black tea and other stimulant foods and drinks or things that promote vitamin and dietary mineral deficiencies. For example, coffee dehydrates, drying out sensitive mucous membranes, potentially leading to laryngospasms. It also depletes us of essential dietary minerals such as magnesium and potassium, but also B vitamins, all of which may play a role in preventing, treating and managing the condition. I found it incredibly helpful to supplement with magnesium and potassium daily, but also took B vitamins regularly and have seen wonderful results. Again, talk to your doctor first and investigate the issue further so you can know what action to take. Wishing you lots of health.

  5. Recently I had laryngospasm twice in 3 months. I got the feeling that I was about to die. But after some time I started to speak again. Normally it lasts for 45-60 seconds..but experience is terrible. Is it fatal? I have read somewhere that it gets resolved automatically and it’s not life threatening.

    • Hello, Anup. If you have laryngospasms, it might be best to go see a doctor and find out what is causing them. It may be stress, acid reflux disease, anxiety or allergies and so on. Because while laryngospasms themselves are generally not life threatening, they may cause complications for other conditions, which may be dangerous. For instance, if someone has asthma, a laryngospasm episode can trigger an asthma attack which can be life threatening. This is why it is important to see a doctor and know what is triggering your episodes so you can know how to prevent them in the future.

  6. Do antibiotics and/or high cholesterol medications cause laryngospasms. I’ve never experienced them in 53 years and have had 3 within the past week. One was when I was swallowing an antacid, one when I was swallowing a potato chip and the other when I was swallowing popcorn. I sipped water and they dissipated but prior to that I felt like I was not going to catch my breath. I gasped severely to breath. Is there a particular position I should be in if I can stop the panic enough to think?

    • Hi, Sherri. Antacids can cause laryngospasms, particularly the solid units, such as the disk-shaped Maalox. The tablet tends to disintegrate in the mouth and the tiny, dust-like particles get stuck on the mucous membrane of the throat. Antacids are formulated in such a way that they absorb moisture, so they absorb saliva as well and thus dry out the mouth and the back of the throat, potentially triggering laryngospasms in predisposed individuals. You can try a liquid form of antacids and see how it works for you. Potato chips and popcorn can also lead to a laryngospasm episode for the same reason: they break down in tiny pieces and stick to various parts of the mouth and throat mucous membranes. The trouble with them is that they also generally contain salt which will irritate the mucous membrane further and extract the moisture from it, leaving it dry and inflammed. As you may already know, a dry mucous membrane (dry back of the mouth, dry throat) can lead to laryngospasms as well. It’s important not to panic and always have water at hand to help wash down anything that might irritate your throat. In time, you will learn which foods you can eat safely and which it might be best to avoid. As for antibiotics and statins, they don’t list side effects such as laryngospasms, but they can create the circumstances for laryngospasm episodes. Antibiotics destroy the good bacteria in the stomach and can cause or worsen acid reflux. Stomach acid can go up the esophagus, irritate the throat and cause a laryngospasm episode. Cholesterol medication may have a similar effect on digestive health and engender laryngospams. As for the position, try not to eat in bed. Stand upright in a chair, eat slowly and make sure you have water with you to help wash down any problematic foods.

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