Common problems

Every child is unique and will be affected in different ways by OA/TOF. However, there are some common problems. These are:

The “TOF cough”

Children with OA/TOF often have a loud, barking cough, known as the “TOF cough”. It’s caused by a floppiness (tracheomalacia) of part of the trachea (windpipe) and can get worse when a child has a cold or other respiratory problems. Whilst it can sound alarming, it doesn’t necessarily mean the child is ill.

Find out more about the “TOF cough”.

Respiratory problems, asthma and chest infections

Babies with OA/TOF can experience short periods when they find it hard to breathe, due to a floppy trachea. This is most likely to happen when a child is breathing heavily, for example when coughing or crying. Children usually grow out of this by the age of two and then only a minority of babies suffer severely.

Babies may also experience respiratory problems such as asthma and chest infections.  These are treated with inhalers or antibiotic treatments.

Find out more about chest infections and ‘wheeze’.

Swallowing and getting food stuck

Children with OA/TOF often have abnormal swallowing mechanisms and will have to learn to cope with their particular feeding problems.  Some children will need to receive tube feeding to make sure they stay healthy. At first, many will need a special diet, but most will (with their support of their school) cope with school dinners or a packed lunch.

Find out about strictures.


Children with OA/TOF often experience gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR). This is where the acidic stomach contents pass back into the lower oesophagus, causing pain and often reluctance to eat. Reflux can usually be treated using a combination of practical measures and prescribed medications. Occasionally it requires further surgery.

Find out about gastro-oesophageal reflux.

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