Breathing Problems in Children

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on February 11, 2024
2 min read
  • 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 their throat
  • Is breathing very fast
  • Looks very sick

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

  • Is younger than 1 year old and still has trouble breathing after you cleaned out their nose
  • Has been diagnosed with 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, continuous coughing or a barking-type cough
  • 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 their nostrils or draws in their chest muscles to breathe
  • Is sluggish


  • Give babies plenty of breast milk or formula. Offer this frequently and in small amounts.
  • Give older children water or an electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte.
  • Children may eat more slowly because of breathing problems, so give them plenty of time.
  • Thin mucus in a stuffy nose with saline nose drops.
  • Remove mucus from a baby's nose with a suction bulb or a nasal-oral aspirator.
  • 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.