Breathlessness in children, which occurs mainly at night or during sleep, is in most cases a consequence of the so-called pseudo croup disease. This is a viral disease of the larynx and bronchial tubes that occurs mainly during the cold winter months. The affected children suffer from a strong, barking cough and hoarseness.
Inflammation of the mucous membranes leads to severe swelling with relocation of the larynx or bronchi. This causes acute respiratory distress. The diseased children are often conspicuous by their shallow and rapid breathing and when breathing in a clearly audible, rustling sound can be heard.
In order to quickly counteract the shortness of breath, opening the windows to allow cold air to enter, moistening the air and administering cortisone helps. In the case of a very severe manifestation of such a pseudo croup attack, intubation with oxygen and administration of adrenaline may even be necessary. Another cause of respiratory distress in children, which occurs at night or while sleeping, is the childhood sleep apnea syndrome.
Children suffering from so-called sleep apnoea are often conspicuous by heavy snoring or long pauses in breathing during sleep. In addition to snoring, respiratory disorders are manifested in the form of holding breath, shallow breathing and prolonged pauses between breaths. The air has to be drawn into the lungs under a difficult effort.
The children lack sufficient air to exchange oxygen and breathing difficulties develop. Only with great effort can the oxygen content in the blood be kept within the normal range. In addition to the shortness of breath, there is also increased stress which affects the child’s body. Often the affected children also stand out due to hyperactivity during the day.
Respiratory distress after a fall
The occurrence of respiratory distress in children can also occur in the context of a fall. As a result of a fall, children can quickly develop a contusion of the ribs, which can lead to breath-dependent pain in the chest area. Since the pain is intensified by the breathing process, children try to avoid it by breathing more slowly and more shallowly.
This shallow breathing leads to increasing shortness of breath, as the gas exchange in the lungs cannot take place efficiently enough. During a fall, in addition to bruises, the ribs can also be broken. In the worst case, a broken rib can injure the lung and a so-called pneumothorax can develop.
Physiologically, there is a negative pressure between the lung and the wall of the thorax, which contributes to the development of the lung. If this negative pressure is released by an injury, the lung collapses. The children are conspicuous by severe shortness of breath, congested neck veins and a weakened breathing sound. In this case, immediate emergency treatment must be given, otherwise the child may suffocate.