Difficulty Breathing in Children

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Difficulty breathing can occur when a child's lungs or heart are not working well.

Mild trouble breathing means:

  • The child is breathing a little faster than usual.
  • The child seems a little out of breath but can still eat or talk.

Moderate trouble breathing means:

  • The child is breathing a lot faster than usual.
  • The child has to take breaks from eating or talking to breathe.
  • The nostrils flare or the belly moves in and out at times when the child breathes.

Severe trouble breathing means:

  • The child cannot eat or talk because he or she is breathing so hard.
  • The child's nostrils are flaring and the belly is moving in and out with every breath.
  • The child seems to be tiring out.
  • The child seems very sleepy or confused.

Current as of: June 4, 2014

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD