Common Breathing Problems In Children: Causes, Complications, Prevention, And Treatment

There are several causes that lead to breathing problem in New-borns and infants. Such issues are highly recommended to be treated as immediately as possible.

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Breathing Issues In Children
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Breathing is a vital activity that the human body carries out. Through this, the lungs take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Oxygen is needed by each and every cell of our body. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is a waste product body should get rid of. Hence, breathing problems in children could lead to serious consequences if not addressed on time. Parents must remain very much vigilant in this regard. Otherwise, their children may not enjoy the blessings of good health.

Breathing Problems in Children (Newborns)

Breathing Problems in Children (Newborns)
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Before birth, the baby lives in fluid and, hence, his breathing demands are met in a different way. When a baby takes birth, there is a huge environmental change. The problems arise if their lungs are not properly formed or the air passages are not clear.

What are the Most Common Breathing Problems in Newborns?

Common Breathing Problems in Newborns
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Breathing problems in neonates occur due to the following reasons:

  • Inadequate oxygen delivery
  • Birth defects in lungs

Listed below are some breathing difficulties occurring in newborns:

1. One of the Worst Breathing Problems in Children; Neonatal Asphyxia

Neonatal asphyxia refers to a condition in which a baby does not get sufficient oxygen during or after birth.

What are The Causes of Neonatal Asphyxia?

It could happen due to the following reasons:

  • If there is decreased oxygen concentration in maternal blood during labor. This could be a result of a pre-existing heart or lung disorder in the mother.
  • Too long or difficult labor.
  • Mother has some infection.
  • The placenta gets separated before time. It leads to discontinuation of the blood supply to the baby.
  • Umbilical cord compression leads to a compromise in blood supply to the baby.
  • Besides, blocked airway passages in the neonate.

What are the Signs of Neonatal Asphyxia?

If your baby has asphyxia, you will notice the following:

  • Skin color becomes pale or blue.
  • Breathing becomes difficult.
  • Also, nasal flaring.
  • Heart rate will either be too high or too low.
  • Besides, the baby will not be moving his limbs actively.

What is the Treatment of Neonatal Asphyxia?

This condition should be treated immediately.

  • A mother may be facing low oxygen in her blood due to any reason. She must be given oxygen therapy in order to prevent neonatal asphyxia.
  • The health care provider should immediately clear the airway passages after birth. This is done by suctioning.
  • If needed, provide the baby with oxygen with an oxygen mask or nasal cannula.
  • Keep the baby warm.
  • If the condition doesn’t improve after all these efforts, do not worry. A plastic tube will be passed through his mouth to the lungs. He will get oxygen through this.

What Can Happen if Asphyxia Goes Untreated?

Prompt diagnosis and immediate treatment can save your baby from complications. However, if diagnosed or treated late it can lead to the following complications

  • All the organs need oxygen to function properly. Lack of oxygen supply can lead to organ failure.
  • Low oxygen supply to the brain leads to poor brain function later in life. Such a child may suffer paralysis.
  • Brain damage can cause seizures later in life.
  • Untreated for a long time, it can result in death.

2.   Other Breathing Problems in Children: Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome ARDS

Usually, premature babies fall prey to this. Lungs have a thin layer of fluid called surfactant. This keeps the lungs from collapsing. A baby may be born too early without a surfactant. His lungs will collapse. This leads to poor oxygen delivery.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

  • Widening of nostrils while breathing, called nasal flaring.
  • Inward movement of the chest during breathing.
  • Also, pale or Bluish coloration of the skin.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Besides, cold and sweaty skin.

How to Treat ARDS in Newborns?

It requires vigorous treatment.

  • Sometimes, premature delivery is expected. The mother is given steroid shots prior to delivery. These are to aid lung maturation.
  • Oxygen administration through a nasal cannula.
  • Also, intravenous antibiotics.
  • CPAP: continuous positive airway pressure.
  • Moreover, the surfactant can be administered through a plastic tube passed into the lungs.

What are the Complications of ARDS?

Improperly treated ARDS can lead to:

  • Accumulation of air around the lungs or heart.
  • Infection in the blood called sepsis.
  • Lung infection.
  • Intellectual disabilities later in life.
  • Death in extreme cases.

What are the Danger Signs of Breathing Problems in Children?

It is necessary for you as a responsible parent to have knowledge about what is dangerous regarding breathing issues. These are the signs that you must not delay seeking medical help.

  • Widening of nares while breathing (nasal flaring)
  • In-drawing of the chest (chest retraction)
  • Whistling sound in the chest (wheezing)
  • Grunting sound when breathing out (stridor)
  • drowsiness

Common Breathing Problems in Children

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Breathing problems in children can be a result of some genetic diseases or they may acquire the disease.

We will discuss a few common diseases here.

Asthma: One of the Major Breathing Problems in Children

Breathing problems in children
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It is a disease in which airways are very sensitive to cold, pollens, and allergens. Exposure to any of these or a strenuous exercise, therefore, leads to inflammation. This makes them narrow and breathing becomes difficult and stressful. It is a long-standing disease and cannot be eliminated. The solution is prevention and treatment.

 What are the Signs and Symptoms of Asthma?

These are different for different children.

  • Continuous cough
  • Whistling sound in the chest
  • Also, cough or more than usual shortness of breath after exercise
  • Worsening of cough during viral infection
  • Besides, difficulty in breathing

What are the Diagnostic Tests for Asthma?

  • Spirometry is a test to measure the amount of air in the lungs. It also tells the ease with which it is blown out.
  • Tests to find out what triggers asthma.
  • X-ray chest to rule out the presence of infection.

What is the Treatment of Asthma?

The main focus is to prevent the episode of an asthma attack. This is possible through identifying the triggering factors and avoiding them. However, the followings are available for the prevention and treatment of attack:

  • Short-term medications like albuterol inhalers provide prompt relief from the distressing symptoms of asthma.
  • Long term medicines include steroids and long-acting beta-blockers in a metered-dose inhaler (MDI)
  • Also, Montelukast is used for prevention.
  • Treatment of the underlying infection that is triggering asthma.
  • Besides, Nebulization using the medicine.

Pneumonia: Another Major Issue Regarding Breathing Problems in Children

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What is Pneumonia?

It is the inflammation in one or both lungs. It leads to the accumulation of fluid or pus in the lungs.

What are the Causes of Pneumonia?

It is mostly due to bacteria, but there are other causes as well, like:

  • Fungal infection
  • Viral infection including COVID-19
  • Aspiration pneumonia due to aspiration of liquid into the lungs

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Pneumonia?

Pneumonia leads to disturbance in breathing as well as general health issues. It is manifested as:

  • Cough with sputum
  • Fever
  • Also, chest pain
  • Laziness
  • Besides, chills
  • Difficulty in breathing

These could be mild to severe depending upon the severity of the infection.

How to Diagnose Pneumonia?

Diagnostic tests for pneumonia include:

  • X-ray chest
  • Complete blood cells count
  • Besides, CRP (to indicate an infection in the blood)
  • Sputum test
  • Also, a CT scan

Your healthcare provider will choose according to the need.

How to Prevent Pneumonia?

The main step in prevention is to get your baby vaccinated. Moreover, maintain good hygiene and focus on building their immunity.

What is the Treatment of Pneumonia?

The main goal here is to treat the infection. It is also to reduce the distress associated with breathing. This we achieve by the following:

  • Antibiotics to treat the underlying infection.
  • Cough syrups to increase the expelling out of sputum.
  • Also, painkillers to ease the pain.
  • Moreover, antipyretics for the treatment of fever.

What are the Possible Complications of Pneumonia?

If neglected, it leads to serious consequences like:

  • Leaking of air in the chest.
  • Also, abscess formation in lung tissue.
  • Spread of infection in the blood.
  • Besides, the accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pleural effusion).

The Bottom Line

Breathing problems in children
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Breathing problems in children are really very common, but they must never be treated casually. Pay full attention to your children and be quick to treat their breathing problems properly at the earliest. It will definitely save you and your children from many possible complications.

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Dr. Aleena Ijaz is a graduate from King Edward Medical College and currently working as a medical officer. She is ambitious to share her knowledge and views on health, women's life, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, home decor, social evils, latest trends, and beauty care. She prays to the Almighty to keep her fit enough to continue serving mankind throughout her life.

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