Recent Blog Articles
5 inflammation-fighting food swaps
Is IBD an underrecognized health problem in minority groups?
Sickle cell disease in newborns and children: What families should know and do
COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens: What we do — and don’t — know
Happy trails: Take a hike, now
Sleep well — and reduce your risk of dementia and death
COVID-19 vaccines and the LGBTQ+ community
Polycystic ovary syndrome and the skin
Dental appliances for sleep apnea: Do they work?
Terrified of needles? That can affect your health
Shortness of Breath in Infants, Children, and Teens
If your child cannot seem to get enough breath in his lungs (shortness of breath) or is having a hard time breathing, he probably has a medical condition that needs treatment. If your child is old enough to talk, he can tell you that he is having difficulty breathing. If your child is younger, you may notice that he is breathing harder or faster than usual, isn't feeding well, or is cranky. Seek emergency medical care immediately if your child is in severe distress -- no matter his age.
Answering the following questions in this Health Decision Guide will help you understand more about what usually causes shortness of breath in children, and help you know when you should contact your pediatrician for medical care. Please note, this guide is not meant to take the place of a visit to your pediatrician's office.
Shortness of breath can be a sign of a serious illness.
Your child is having some difficulty breathing. Do any of the following other statements describe your child?
When my child breathes, I can see his nostrils flare, his belly move out, his ribs stick out, and/or his neck muscles tighten.
When my child breathes in, he makes a whistling or high-pitched noise.
He grunts when he breathes out.
His lips, mouth or fingertips are blue.
He can not talk or can not finish a sentence without stopping to take a breath.
He is drooling more than he usually would.
His face, lips, eyes, or neck is swollen.
He is scratching or has hives.
He is sleepier than usual for the time of day.
He is not moving normally.
He is not answering questions normally or seems confused.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.