- Trouble breathing means working hard to breathe
- The medical name is respiratory distress
- Normal breathing should be easy and quiet
Trouble Breathing: Symptoms
Trouble breathing is a reason to see a doctor right away. Here are symptoms to watch for:
- Struggling for each breath or short of breath.
- Tight breathing so that your child can barely speak or cry.
- Ribs are pulling in with each breath (called retractions).
- Breathing has become noisy (such as wheezing).
- Breathing is much faster than normal.
- Lips or face turn a blue color.
Trouble Breathing: Importance
- Trouble breathing is the most common type of pediatric emergency.
- Trouble breathing is the most common reason for getting admitted to the hospital.
- Many of these children need oxygen.
- The first year of life is the most dangerous time to have trouble breathing. Reason: lung infections cause swelling of the airways. Babies have narrow airways to begin with. Small airways can close off quickly.
Causes of Trouble Breathing
Trouble breathing comes from problems in the lower throat, voice box, windpipe, or lung airways. Here are the common ones:
- Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). Suspect when there is a sudden onset of trouble breathing and widespread hives. Common causes are bee stings or food allergies such as peanuts.
- Asthma. Symptoms of an asthma attack are wheezing, a cough, and trouble breathing.
- Bronchiolitis. A viral infection of the smallest airways in the lungs. Wheezing during the first 2 years of life is often caused by bronchiolitis. Main symptoms are fast breathing and wheezing.
- Croup. A viral infection of the voice box and windpipe. Main symptoms are a barky cough and hoarse voice. Some children with severe croup get a harsh, tight sound while breathing in. This is called stridor.
- Foreign Object in Airway. Suspect when there is a sudden onset of coughing and choking. Common objects are peanuts and seeds. Peak age is 1 to 4 years.
- Influenza. Main symptoms are a fever with a runny nose, sore throat, and bad cough. The flu virus can also cause complications such as pneumonia. Vaccine may prevent the disease.
- Pneumonia. An infection of the part of the lungs that supplies oxygen to the blood. Having pneumonia may lower blood oxygen levels and cause trouble breathing. Many bacterial causes can be prevented by vaccine.
- Whooping Cough. A bacterial infection of the airway. Main symptoms are long coughing spells and choking. Very serious in infants. Can be prevented by vaccine.
Vaping and Lung Damage
- Talk with your teen about the dangers of vaping.
- Vaping can cause severe lung damage. It can become permanent.
- Vaping can even cause death (50 in the US in 2019).
- Vaping tobacco also causes nicotine addiction.
- For these reasons, the legal age to purchase vaping products is 21 in the US.
- Encourage your teen to not start vaping or to give it up.
- Warning: home-made or street-purchased vaping solutions are the most dangerous.