Examples of Shortness of Breath

Signs of Respiratory Distress in Children

  • Breathing rate. An increase in the number of breaths per minute may indicate that a person is having trouble breathing or not getting enough oxygen.
  • Increased heart rate. Low oxygen levels may cause an increase in heart rate.
  • Color changes. A bluish color seen around the mouth, on the inside of the lips, or on the fingernails may occur when a person is not getting as much oxygen as needed. The color of the skin may also appear pale or gray.
  • Grunting. A grunting sound can be heard each time the person exhales. This grunting is the body’s way of trying to keep air in the lungs so they will stay open.
  • Nose flaring. The openings of the nose spreading open while breathing may indicate that a person is having to work harder to breathe.
  • Retractions. The chest appears to sink in just below the neck and/or under the breastbone with each breath — one way of trying to bring more air into the lungs.
  • Sweating. There may be increased sweat on the head, but the skin does not feel warm to the touch. More often, the skin may feel cool or clammy. This may happen when the breathing rate is very fast.
  • Wheezing. A tight, whistling or musical sound heard with each breath may indicate that the air passages may be smaller, making it more difficult to breathe.
  • Stridor. A ‘barking’ or ‘seal’ sound heard in the upper airway when the child breathes in.
  • Accessory muscle use. The muscles of the neck appear to be moving when your child breathes in.
  • Changes in alertness. Low oxygen levels may cause your child to act more tired and may indicate respiratory fatigue.

 

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