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    Breathing Problems in Children

    Call 911 if your child:

    • Is gasping for breath
    • Can't cry or talk because of breathing trouble
    • Grunts when breathing
    • Has blue lips
    • May have a small object caught in her throat
    • Is breathing very fast (this is also a symptom of fever)
    • Looks very sick

    • Is gasping for breath
    • Can't cry or talk because of breathing trouble
    • Grunts when breathing
    • Has blue lips
    • May have a small object caught in her throat
    • Is breathing very fast (this is also a symptom of fever)
    • Looks very sick

    Breathing problems are common in young children, but in some cases they can be serious.

    Call the Doctor If Your Child:

    • Is younger than 1 year old and still has trouble breathing after you cleaned out her nose
    • Has bronchiolitis (a common lung infection in children) or a reactive airways disease (such as asthma or a condition like asthma) episode

    • Has trouble breathing or is breathing very fast when not coughing
    • Has severe coughing attacks or continuous coughing
    • Is wheezing or making a high-pitched whistle sound when breathing out or in
    • Can't take a deep breath because of chest pain or coughed-up blood
    • Has a fever that persists
    • Flares her nostrils or draws in her chest muscles to breathe
    • Is sluggish
    • Is vomiting and can't keep fluids down
    • Has a cold that gets worse quickl

    1. Prevent Dehydration

    • Give babies plenty of breast milk or formula.
    • Give older children water or juice mixed with water.
    • Children may eat more slowly because of breathing problems, so give them plenty of time.

    2. Relieve Congestion

    • Thin mucus in a stuffy nose with saline nose drops.
    • Remove mucus from a baby's nose with a suction bulb.

    3. Ease Breathing

    • Use a cool-mist humidifier near the child to add moisture to the air.
    • Sit in the bathroom with a hot shower running and have your child breathe in the steam.

    4. Make the Child Comfortable

    • Let the child rest.
    • Give children's-formula acetaminophen (Tylenol) to bring down a fever.
    • Keep the child away from cigarette smoke.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on September 10, 2015

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