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The 411 on Abnormal Breathing

Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children

When to take your child to the ER for changes in breathing

Abnormal breathing can be troubling for any parent to witness in his or her child. While some changes in breathing are temporary and relatively harmless, other abnormal breathing episodes may indicate a larger problem.
 
Irregular Breathing in Newborns

Newborns will often begin breathing faster for a few seconds and then slow down their breathing, especially when sleeping. This type of irregular breathing is normal and does not require treatment. If irregular breathing persists past the age of 6 months, call your pediatrician to ensure your child’s breathing is healthy. If your infant displays any of the symptoms listed below, immediately seek emergency care.
 
If Your Child Stops Breathing

If your child has stopped breathing and is not responsive, immediately begin CPR and call 911.
 
If your child ceases breathing for 15 seconds or more, and then resumes breathing, visit the pediatric ER. Even if your child seems fine, it is important to make sure the underlying reason for the episode has been resolved. 
 
Many children between the age of 6 months and 6 years experience breath-holding spells, or involuntary breath holding that usually occurs when the child is crying or upset. Children who experience these spells do not need to seek emergency care unless the incident results in unconsciousness or a seizure. In these cases, it is best to visit the pediatric ER to make sure there are no other reasons for the seizure or unconsciousness.
 
Changes in Breathing

If your child seems to be having a hard time breathing, or you notice abnormal behaviors or actions, it may be time to seek emergency care. Visit the pediatric ER if you notice these symptoms:

  • Breathing that is faster than normal
  • Breathing harder than usual without exertion
  • Chest and abdomen look like a see-saw (one goes up while the other goes down)
  • Bluish hue to the lips or skin
  • Persistent barking cough or wheezing
  • High-pitched squeaky sound in the upper airway
  • Placing weight on the hands in a tripod position while hyperextending the neck

If your child is recovering from a choking episode in which he or she turned blue but returned to normal, it is still a good idea to visit the pediatric ER to ensure there are no longer-term consequences.

HealthONE has five pediatric emergency departments in the Denver metro area, so you are certain to find an ER that is close to home and able to quickly care for your child. Our hospitals strive to beat the national average wait time, so you can get quick access to high-quality emergency medical care.

November 5, 2014 | By SCPaulsen | Category: District

District News

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