Signs That Children Are Struggling To Breathe

Signs That Children Are Struggling To Breathe

Check the list for signs your child is struggling to breathe. Know the different noises that babies or children can make when they are struggling to breathe.

How do I know if my child is struggling to breathe?

If your baby or child is struggling to breathe, see a doctor urgently. 

Babies

Babies who are struggling to breathe may not be able to feed as well or as long as they usually do.

What will I see or hear when I look at my baby?

  • fast breathing
  • sucking or pulling in under the ribcage
  • sucking or pulling in between each rib
  • using the muscles around the neck during breathing - this can make it look like your baby's head is bobbing up and down
  • flaring of the nostrils - the nostrils move out as your baby breathes
  • extra noises when breathing in or out or both

If your baby looks blue, is very drowsy or has pauses in their breathing, dial 111 within New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) and ask for urgent medical help.

Children

What will I see or hear when I look at my child?

  • fast breathing
  • sucking or pulling in under the ribcage
  • sucking or pulling in between each rib
  • using the muscles around the neck during breathing
  • flaring of the nostrils - the nostrils move out as your child breathes
  • extra noises when breathing in or out or both
  • so breathless they can only speak a few words at a time

If your child looks blue, is agitated or drowsy or can only speak one or 2 words, dial 111 within New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) and ask for urgent medical help.

What are the different noises that babies or children can make when they are struggling to breathe?

Wheeze

Wheezing is a whistly, squeaky noise that children make when breathing out or in, or both. It can happen if your child has a condition like bronchiolitis or asthma.

Stridor

Stridor is a harsh noise your child might make when breathing in. It can happen if your child has a condition like croup.

Grunting

A grunt or a moan or a short sigh is a noise your child might make when breathing out. It can happen if your child has a condition like pneumonia.

 

This page last reviewed 23 August 2019.
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