Exercise Induced Laryngeal Obstruction (EILO)
Your child is playing soccer or baseball or running on the track when suddenly they have a difficult time breathing. After a few minutes their breathing slowly returns to normal, but a few days later, while actively participating in sports it happens again. It could be that your child has exercise induced laryngeal obstruction (EILO), a very treatable condition.
What is EILO?
EILO is a breathing problem that happens during exercise. During exercise the airway in the voice box narrows. This makes it very hard to breathe. Fortunately, EILO is not life threatening and breathing usually returns to normal soon after exercise has stopped.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Difficulty breathing during exercise
- Feeling like you're breathing through a straw
- Throat or chest tightness
- Noisy breathing (e.g., stridor, wheezing)
- Feeling of a lump stuck in the throat or choking
Is it different from Asthma?
Yes, Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA) is more common and has similar symptoms. Sometimes children can have both EIA and EILO. Here are some differences in symptoms:
- Breathing difficulty is the worst during peak exercise
- Breathing problems resolve after a few minutes of rest (about 5 minutes)
- Noisy breathing happens on inhale
- Asthma inhalers do NOT help to resolve or prevent breathing difficulty
- Breathing difficulty is the worst after exercise is over
- Breathing problems take a while to resolve (about 10 minutes or more)
- Noisy breathing happens on exhale
- Asthma inhalers help treat and prevent breathing difficulty
What causes it?
Researchers do not know what causes some children to develop EILO.
How is it diagnosed?
The best test to diagnose EILO is called a continuous laryngoscopy during exercise (CLE). During this test, the doctor will view a child's voice box and vocal cords with a scope while the child is exercising.
How is EILO treated?
EILO is most commonly treated using specific breathing techniques during exercise. These techniques help prevent EILO from starting. A speech-language pathologist can teach these techniques.