Understanding Normal and Abnormal Breathing Patterns in Children and How to Identify them

March 8th, 2023
Understanding Normal and Abnormal Breathing Patterns in Children and How to Identify them

Breathing is a vital process for human life, which allows the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, providing energy to the body's cells. In the case of infants, breathing plays an even more critical role, as their bodies are still adapting to life outside the womb. Therefore, it is important for parents to be familiar with their child's normal breathing patterns and recognize any abnormal ones that may indicate respiratory problems.

Newborns have a breathing pattern similar to mature adults, but they breathe more often in brief "bursts." This difference is due to the infant's lung development, which is still ongoing. As their lungs mature, they gradually shift from a pattern of bursts to slower, deeper breaths. Parents can observe these changes as their child grows and develops.

Generally, infants have a different respiratory rate than older children and adults, which can be concerning for new parents who are not familiar with the normal breathing patterns of young children.

A newborn baby's normal respiratory rate is between 40 and 60 breaths per minute. This rate is much faster than that of older children and adults, as infants require more oxygen to fuel their growing bodies. The respiratory rate of a newborn baby may slow down to 40 or even 30 breaths per minute when they are sleeping, which is normal.


cute baby sleeping-Breathing-Patterns

Variations in breathing patterns, especially in the first few months of life, are normal for infants and parents should not be alarmed by it. It is important to bear in mind that infants have a much smaller lung capacity and that their respiratory systems are still developing; thus, their breathing patterns may really differ from those of older children and adults.

Parents should also be watchful for any signs of breathing difficulties in their newborns. Several factors including infections, asthma, and allergies can cause these breathing difficulties. Thus, parents should immediately seek medical attention if they observe that their child displays any signs of breathing difficulties. These signs may be in the form of shallow breathing, grunting, wheezing, or bluish lips or skin.

Breathing Patterns in Children

Periodic breathing

Periodic breathing is another common phenomenon in newborns and premature infants. This pattern involves the baby breathing fast several times while sleeping, followed by a brief rest for less than 10 seconds, then resuming breathing without external stimulation. While periodic breathing can be concerning for parents, it is typically a normal occurrence in infants and not a cause for alarm.

Despite these variations in breathing patterns, parents should also be aware of abnormal breathing patterns in babies. Rapid and irregular breathing, for instance, can be a sign of overheating, agitation, or illness. Newborns breathe rapidly, at more than 60 breaths per minute, especially when crying or feeding. If this breathing pattern persists when the baby is calm and comfortable, it may indicate a serious respiratory problem that requires medical attention.


Apneic breathing

baby crying-Breathing-Patterns

One of the most concerning breathing patterns that parents of infants should be aware of is apneic breathing. Apneic breathing is a type of breathing pause that lasts for more than 20 seconds or less than 20 seconds with other signs of discomfort like low heart rate and bluish skin discoloration. It is a serious respiratory problem.

Apneic breathing can be caused by a variety of factors, including sleep apnea, infections, and neurological conditions. It is important for parents to track their child's breathing patterns and seek medical attention if they notice any abnormal pauses in breathing.

If a child exhibits apneic breathing, parents should not hesitate to call 911 and begin resuscitation if necessary. Resuscitation techniques may include ventilatory support and oxygen therapy, which can help to restore the child's breathing and prevent further complications.


Is nasal flaring normal in newborns?

Nasal flaring could also be a sign of respiratory problems in infants. Nasal flaring occurs when the nostrils expand with each breath, indicating that the infant is having trouble taking in enough air. If your baby's nostrils flare up occasionally, it's important to keep an eye on them for any signs of distress or discomfort. Babies can sometimes have difficulty regulating their breathing and this can cause their nostrils to flare up. Thus, if you notice your baby's nostrils flaring while they are sleeping and showing signs of discomfort, seek medical advice right away.


Other signs of respiratory problems in infants

Respiratory problems can be a serious concern for parents, especially when it comes to infants. In addition to nasal flaring, other signs that may indicate respiratory problems in infants include incessant coughing and retracting. While these symptoms may not always be a cause for alarm, they should be checked closely to make sure that the infant's respiratory health is not compromised.

Incessant coughing or choking, especially during feedings, may indicate a respiratory problem. This coughing or choking can be especially troubling for parents who may worry about their child's ability to breathe while eating or drinking. Additionally, retracting, which involves the spaces between the ribs being sucked in with each breath, can be a sign of pneumonia or other serious lung infections as well.

To make sure that their infants are breathing regularly, parents can take simple steps to check their breathing patterns. For instance, they can listen, look, and feel for normal breathing patterns. Parents can put their ear close to their child's nose and mouth and listen for sounds of breath; bend down close to the child's chest and watch for the rise and fall movement of the chest during breathing, and put their cheek close to the baby's mouth or nose and feel for tiny breaths against the skin. These measures can help parents identify any irregularities in their infant's breathing patterns and seek medical attention if necessary.

Overall, parents want their children to be healthy and happy, and when they notice changes in their child's breathing patterns, it can be very concerning. In many cases, changes in breathing patterns are normal and nothing to worry about. However, in some cases, these changes may indicate respiratory problems that require prompt medical attention.

Dealing with children's health problems, including respiratory problems, can be a challenging task for parents. It is often difficult to distinguish between normal variations in breathing patterns and those that indicate respiratory problems, and parents may worry unnecessarily about their children's health. Thus, this is where healthcare providers come in.

Pediatric healthcare providers can provide valuable guidance and support to parents who are concerned about their child's respiratory health. They can help parents understand the normal breathing patterns of infants and young children and differentiate between those that are normal and those that may indicate respiratory problems. They can also provide prompt medical attention if necessary, including diagnostic testing and treatment options.

Regular check-ups with a pediatrician can help parents stay informed about their child's respiratory health and identify any potential problems. With open communication and collaboration between parents and healthcare providers, children can receive the prompt medical attention they need to maintain good respiratory health.


Why choose Omega Pediatrics?

Omega Pediatrics, located in Roswell, Georgia, is a pediatric primary care clinic that provides a range of services to support children's health and well-being. The clinic offers extended hours, walk-ins, and telemedicine via e-visits for known patients, making it easier for parents to access pediatric primary care services. The clinic's commitment to providing comfortable and convenient services to its patients is further proven by its provision of immunizations after regular business hours.

By offering extended hours and walk-in services, Omega Pediatrics makes it easier for parents to access the care they need, even outside of regular business hours. This extended hours service can be particularly valuable in emergency situations or when parents have concerns about their child's health outside normal business hours. The clinic's telemedicine services, which allow parents to consult with a healthcare provider remotely, can also be beneficial in situations where in-person visits are not possible or convenient.

In addition to its convenient services, Omega Pediatrics also provides high-quality pediatric primary care. The clinic's team of healthcare providers includes pediatricians, nurse practitioners, and medical assistants, all of whom are trained to provide expert care for children. The clinic offers a range of services, including routine check-ups, immunizations, and treatment for common childhood illnesses. The clinic also offers specialized care for children with chronic conditions, such as asthma, allergies, and diabetes.

One area of particular expertise for Omega Pediatrics is respiratory health. The clinic's healthcare providers are trained to identify and treat a range of respiratory problems in children, including asthma, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia. They are also skilled in providing education and support to parents on how to manage their child's respiratory health and prevent future problems.

Omega Pediatrics also emphasizes the importance of preventative care, including routine check-ups and immunizations. Regular check-ups can help to identify potential health problems early on, allowing for prompt treatment and prevention of future problems. Immunizations are another important component of preventative care, protecting children from a range of infectious diseases and helping to prevent the spread of disease in the community.