How can I recognize the shortness of breath? | Respiratory distress of the baby

How can I recognize the shortness of breath?

Unlike adults, babies cannot deepen their breathing, which is why the otherwise typical sign of respiratory distress, deep wheezing, does not occur. Breathlessness in babies manifests itself in various signs:

  • Skin between the ribs is pulled in when the infant breathes in. – blue discoloration around the mouth, on the hands and feet due to lack of oxygen
  • Babies with shortness of breath do not cry because of lack of strength and air
  • Lack of response to speech


As varied as the causes of respiratory distress are, so are the accompanying symptoms. If the cause of the shortness of breath is an infectious disease, such as flu or whooping cough, the babies may show the following symptoms: If the cause of the shortness of breath is an allergic disease, other allergic symptoms may occur: In the case of shortness of breath due to swallowed foreign bodies, the shortness of breath can only be recognised by retracted skin between the ribs and the blue colouring. In the case of a prolonged lack of oxygen, the infants may sink into unconsciousness.

Many of these illnesses require acute treatment by a doctor and in some cases the emergency services. In case of respiratory distress, parents should not hesitate to call for this help! – high fever

  • Red and sore nose
  • Frequent grasping of the ears in case of middle ear infection
  • Barking cough, reddened eyes with whooping cough
  • Puffy, red eyes
  • Skin rashes


The treatment depends on the cause of the shortness of breath. Acute respiratory distress with a severe oxygen deficiency therefore requires acute therapy. The rescue service gives oxygen directly to the baby and tries to avoid the cause of the shortness of breath.

If the airways are blocked, intubation, i.e. the insertion of a breathing tube, may be necessary. The emergency doctor can also give certain medications that dilate the airways. Some of these drugs can be given together with oxygen, whereas others must be given directly via the blood.

In the case of allergic causes, there are also anti-allergic drugs that reduce the body’s reaction and reduce the swelling of the airways. In the case of more frequent breathing difficulties, a permanent drug therapy can be considered. To prevent breathing difficulties due to obstructions of the airways, babies and small children should not have toys that are too small and should use a sleeping bag instead of a blanket at night, as blankets and cloths over the mouth and nose restrict breathing. In some cases, nightly monitoring of oxygen saturation can also be useful so that parents are woken up in time. After a prolonged oxygen deficiency, the children have to be examined neurologically, as the brain may be damaged and further medical care may be necessary.