Upper airway obstruction is well described as a cause of apparent asthma. However, it can be very difficult to diagnose in young children. This 3-year-old male presented with a 1-year history of severe recurrent wheezing with six emergency room visits in the previous 5 months. Cromolyn, inhaled corticosteroids, and frequent predinisolone bursts had not controlled the wheezing. There was no history of barky cough, croup, or stridor. His physical examination was notable for marked nasal obstruction. At initial presentation, his lungs were normal with no wheezing or stridor. Soft tissue neck X-ray films suggested the presence of a subglottic mass. A large solitary papilloma was found on bronchoscopy. After surgical removal, there was no further wheezing noted by either the parents or his physicians. Laryngeal papillomatosis may mimic asthma in the absence of symptoms of hoarseness, croup, or stridor. It should be particularly considered in 2 to 4-year-old children with recurrent wheezing that is poorly responsive to aggressive therapy including oral corticosteroids.
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