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Ranked among the nation's most integrated healthcare systems, Community Health Network is Central Indiana's leader in providing convenient access to exceptional healthcare services, where and when patients need them—in hospitals, health pavilions, workplaces, schools and homes.

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Signs of Respiratory Distress

Learning the signs of respiratory distress:

Children having difficulty breathing often show signs that they are not getting enough oxygen, indicating respiratory distress. Below is a list of some of the signs that may indicate that your child is not getting enough oxygen. It is important to learn the signs of respiratory distress to know how to respond appropriately.

  • breathing rate
    An increase in the number of breaths per minute may indicate that a person is having trouble breathing or not getting enough oxygen.
  • color changes
    A bluish color seen around the mouth, on the inside of the lips, or on the fingernails may occur when a person is not getting as much oxygen as needed. The color of the skin may also appear pale or gray.
  • grunting
    A grunting sound can be heard each time the person exhales. This grunting is the body's way of trying to keep air in the lungs so they will stay open.
  • nose flaring
    The openings of the nose spreading open while breathing may indicate that a person is having to work harder to breathe.
  • retractions
    The chest appears to sink in just below the neck and/or under the breastbone with each breath - one way of trying to bring more air into the lungs.
  • sweating
    There may be increased sweat on the head, but the skin does not feel warm to the touch. More often, the skin may feel cool or clammy. This may happen when the breathing rate is very fast.
  • wheezing
    A tight, whistling or musical sound heard with each breath may indicate that the air passages may be smaller, making it more difficult to breathe.

The signs of respiratory distress may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Respiratory Disorders

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