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child with tracheostomy

What is a tracheostomy?

A tracheostomy is a small opening through the skin into the windpipe (trachea). This opening is called a stoma. A small plastic tube called a tracheostomy tube is placed through the stoma to help your child breathe.

A tracheostomy is often called a “trach.” The tube is often called a “trach tube.”

What is the purpose of the tracheostomy?

A trach gives your child an airway (a way to breathe air) without using the nose, mouth, and throat. The trach tube helps the medical team take care of your child’s airway for a long time.

Why does my child have a tracheostomy?

A trach helps protect your child’s nose, mouth, and throat and gives your child a way to breathe. Your child might need a trach because the mouth, nose, or throat is blocked. Or your child’s illness makes the mouth, nose, or throat make thick mucus. The mucus can cause breathing problems and is hard to remove.

Neck with stoma

What is happening inside my child’s body?

Normally, we breathe through the nose and mouth. This filters the air before it goes down the windpipe to the lungs. It also warms the air and adds moisture.

With a trach, air goes directly from your child’s windpipe into the lungs. There is no filtering, warming, or moistening. But with the right equipment and training about trach care, your child can adjust. It is a good idea for the St. Jude staff to train several family members how to care for your child’s trach needs.

You will learn 5 main steps for giving safe, effective trach care to your child. These include:

  • Caring for the stoma and the skin around it,
  • Adding moisture to the trach air with a humidity system,
  • Suctioning mucus out of the trach,
  • Changing the trach tube, and
  • Emergency care.

The St. Jude staff will also teach you and your family CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in case your child has serious breathing problems.


If you have questions or concerns about your child’s tracheostomy, talk to your child’s nurse, clinical nurse specialist, or doctor. A nursing coordinator is always here to answer your questions and address your concerns. Call 901-595-3300 and ask for the nursing coordinator. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 when the call connects.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).