Respiratory difficulties in children


When a child has difficulty breathing it is usually due to the airways being narrow somewhere or the lungs not functioning properly. The cause may be, for example, an infection, asthma or that the child has had an object in the airways. Breathing difficulties can be very serious and you usually need to seek care right away for the child.

How does it feel if the child has difficulty breathing?

Difficulty breathing in children can manifest or be marked in different ways. The child may have difficulty breathing in or out. The child can take superficial breaths and breathe quickly.

Breathing problems can be heard

When children have difficulty breathing it can be heard on the breath. It can sound, for example, squeaky, heavy or hissing. Sometimes the sounds are heard only when the child exhales and sometimes only when the child exhales.

Breathing problems can be seen on the body

If the child is having difficulty getting air, more muscles than usual usually need help with breathing. It can be seen in the child’s body.

The skin can be pulled in

When children breathe, as usual, the muscles of the abdomen and middle nerve are used. When the child is having difficulty breathing, the body may also need to use the muscles between the ribs, the clavicles, and the throat. This is seen by the skin being pulled inwards in the areas as the baby breathes. It is called retraction and is a sign that the child must exert himself and fight to get air. The nose wings of the child can also be pulled in and out or flutter.

The skin may turn blue or pale

The child’s skin may become pale or blue in color if the child does not get enough oxygen when breathing. Often, the blue or pale is best seen under the nails and on the lips. The child can become weak in the body, become very tired and difficult to contact.

When and where should I seek care for the child?

If your child has respiratory problems in connection with an airway infection, please contact a health care center or an on-call reception, but feel good otherwise. If closed, you can wait until the on-call reception or medical center open.

  • The child is very difficult to breathe.
  • The baby’s skin is pale or bluish.
  • The baby has strained to breathe and the skin is pulled in between the ribs and in the neck pit as the baby breathes.
  • You suspect the baby has something in his throat.
  • The child has respiratory problems, high fever, very sore throat, wants to sit up and has difficulty swallowing his saliva.
  • The child has been drinking or breathing in chemicals, fire smoke or hot steam. 

The child has difficulty breathing or in, what can it be?

There are several diseases and conditions that can cause respiratory distress in children. 

It is usually crowded in the trachea or higher up in the throat or nose if the child has difficulty breathing.

It is often crowded in the trachea or further down the trachea or lungs if the child has difficulty breathing.

Sometimes it can be difficult to see if the child has difficulty breathing or breathing. Often you feel that the child has difficulty getting air.

Nasal congestion

Children up to about one year have small and narrow passages in the nose. They often get nasal congestion, even with a slight cold. They often find it difficult to breathe when stuffed in the nose, as they breathe most through the nose. This is especially true for children younger than six months.

The younger the child, the more difficult the nasal congestion can become. The trouble often gets worse when the child is lying down.

Children who are stuffed in the nose often find it difficult to breastfeed or eat from a bottle. This is because they need to be able to breathe through the nose while eating. The child often releases the breast or bottle if they cannot breathe.  

There are several things you can do to help a baby who is stuffy in the nose.


Some children may develop a body with a common cold. Then the child gets a hoarse, barking cough that hurts and they can get hard to breathe. The child is often worried and sad which in turn makes it even harder to breathe.  

Krupp is because the mucous membrane swells just below the vocal cords. When the child lies down, the swelling increases. Therefore, the body trouble often comes when the child has been asleep for a while.

There are several things you can do yourself when the child has a body. But if it doesn’t get better, you need to seek care for the child.

Trachea, asthma, and allergy

When the child has difficulty breathing, it is often crowded in the trachea or further down the trachea. The exhalation often sounds wheezing and wheezing. Often the child also coughs.

The cause may be, for example, an infection. A cold or other viral infection can cause trachea or asthma in the child. Then the mucous membranes swell and the trachea can contract. This makes the child more difficult to breathe. Physical exertion and cold air can also cause increased asthma problems.

Children with asthma can also find it difficult to breathe if they come into contact with something they are allergic to. For example, the child may have an allergy to fur animals or a severe allergy to some food. It is common for children who have asthma to be allergic, especially if they are older than two to three years.

Even children without asthma can have severe respiratory problems if they have a severe allergic reaction. This is especially true if children who have a severe allergy to any food get something they cannot tolerate.

Children have narrow trachea

The trachea in children is narrower and thinner the younger the child is. This is especially true for children younger than six-seven years. Therefore, even a small swelling of the mucous membrane can make it difficult for the air to pass.


Inflammation of the larynx is a very serious infection that causes the larynx to swell.

Then the child will find it difficult to get air and breathe quickly. The skin turns gray and the baby can sometimes turn blue on the lips. The child gets a high fever, sits up with his head slightly leaning forward, with half-open and drooling mouth and often has a very sore throat.

Throat inflammation is caused by a bacterium, Haemophilus influenzae type B.

This infection is now uncommon in Europe, as vaccination against the bacterium is included in the general vaccination program for children.

The child breathes superficially and quickly, what can it be?

In infections in the smallest trachea or even further out into the tissues of the lungs, the child may have difficulty getting enough oxygen into the body. This is because the air becomes difficult to pass through the pulmonary vesicles, where oxygen is transferred to the blood.

One cause can be pneumonia, which children of all ages can get. Both viruses and bacteria can cause pneumonia.

RS viruses can cause infections in the smallest bronchial tubes. It happens almost only in children younger than one year. An infection with RS virus can also cause respiratory arrest. This is especially true in children who are one to two months old or who are premature. Breathing pauses usually occur at the beginning of the infection.

The lack of oxygen causes the baby to breathe more superficially

When the child does not get enough oxygen, the breath becomes faster and the child takes more breath. The skin can also be pulled in between the ribs and in the throat pit and the nose wings can start fluttering as the child exits to breathe.

The child often gets short, coughing and coughing. In severe conditions, the skin may become bluish in color. The younger the child, the more difficult breathing often becomes. 

Sudden breathing difficulties in children

Sometimes breathing problems come very quickly.

The baby has something in his throat

If a child suddenly becomes difficult to get air and gets an intense cough it may have stuck to his throat. It can be life-threatening. 

Pulmonary failure

Sudden difficulty in breathing may be due to a part of the lung collapsed, so-called lung collapse. This can happen especially in the teens of tall, narrow people. Most often you do not know why this happens.

How fast do children breathe?

A child who is sick can breathe faster than usual. It can be difficult to count the breath but pay attention to whether your child is breathing faster than they usually do.

This is how fast a child usually breathes:

• 0–2 months: up to about 60 times per minute. It is about once a second.

• 2-12 months: up to about 50 times per minute.

• 1–5 years: up to about 40 times per minute at 1 year to about 30 times per minute at five years.

Older children usually breathe up to about 25 times a minute.

Influence and participate in your care

You and your child can seek care at any health care center you want throughout the country.

You should understand the information

In order to be active in the care and to make decisions, it is important that you as an adult and the child understand the information you receive from the care staff. Ask questions if you don’t understand. For example, you should get information about treatment options and how long you may have to wait for care and treatment.

You have the opportunity to interpret other languages. You also have the option of interpreting assistance if, for example, one of you has a hearing impairment.

Children should be able to participate 

There is no age limit for when a child can have an influence over their care. The child’s ability to participate is related to the child’s maturity. The older the child, the more important it is for them to be involved in their care.

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