Recent Blog Articles

Shortness of Breath in Infants, Children, and Teens

November 24, 2020

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.

Click here to begin.

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.

Yes, one or more of these statements describes my child.

No, none of those statements describe my child.

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
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

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.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.