How do you tell when something is amiss, especially when it comes to your child’s breathing problems?

Shortness of breath can be attributed to many reasons. In some cases, it is a normal reaction to a strenuous session of exercise. Intense jumping on the trampoline or a game of soccer can have your child gasping for air and experiencing mild shortness of breath temporarily. But there are also times when their breathing problem is signifying a more serious health issue that warrants your attention. 

Difficulty in breathing indicates that your child is not getting enough oxygen. Therefore, it is vital to understand some signs of respiratory distress in order to respond appropriately. When unsure, please seek urgent help from health professionals immediately.

  • Cough and Blocked nose

A common cold that comes with cough, runny nose, blocked nose, and sneezing may disrupt breathing patterns, especially in the night. Nasal congestion obstructs airflow from the nose and makes it harder to breathe. This can get really uncomfortable for your child and cause sleeping troubles. Very often, this problem can be easily solved with home remedies and off-the-counter medications from pharmacies or drugstores. One of the common (and effective) methods to clear your child’s nose is to use a saline nasal spray – which works by loosening mucus and clearing the nose from congestion. 

However, persistent and frequent nasal congestion could indicate an underlying problem. Does your child always sound congested? Maybe it’s time to check if your child has any allergies and speak to your doctor to find out how you can manage them. Irritants such as smoke, dust, and certain pets can possibly increase sensitivity in your child’s nose. 

  • Wheezing

If your child is breathing faster than usual at a persistent rate, it signifies a lack of oxygen and can be very dangerous. While exercise and feelings of anxiety increase heart rates and may result in breathlessness, wheezing is definitely a cause for concern and immediate attention. 

What is wheezing? It is a high-pitched sound that comes from the chest when your child is exhaling. When your child’s airways are blocked or inflamed, breathing will become a struggle. If you notice your child reacting in an unusual manner and making a whistle-like sound when exhaling, attend to your child immediately. This is usually accompanied by paleness, excessive sweating, and changes in alertness level.

Wheezing is a common symptom of asthma. If your child has asthma, use the inhaler and administer the appropriate medications when wheezing occurs. This symptom could also be a serious case of an allergic reaction or other underlying diseases like Pneumonia, which will require emergency help and further medical attention. 

  • Chest pain and tightness

Another sign of respiratory distress would be pain and tightness experienced in the chest area.  Besides Asthma, conditions like Pneumonia, Bronchitis, and other respiratory and lung infections can cause discomfort experienced in the chest, which may escalate to – or accompanied by – breathlessness. 

Gastrointestinal distress and problems with the digestive system are also possible reasons for chest pain and tightness. This is known as Gastroesophageal Reflex Disease (GERD). GERD causes a burning sensation in the chest and worsens after your child consumes a heavy meal or lies down for rest. Such a condition requires you to modify your child’s diet or administer medications prescribed by the doctor.

There are many different underlying causes of breathing problems among children. Be it a common cold or a more serious symptom like chest pain, breathlessness is a cause of concern that should not be overlooked or taken lightly. Especially if your child has existing medical conditions like Asthma, it is highly important to stay vigilant and observant of the symptoms that your child exhibit. If you notice that your child is reacting unusually, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical help. 

Reference List:

1. Chest Pain in Children: What You Need to Know. Healthline.

2. Hurtado, Julie. (2015, April 30). HOME COLD FLU AND SINUS Stuffy Nose? 14 Tips for Treating Kids’ Colds. Health.

3. Shortness of Breath in Children: Care Instructions. My Health Alberta. 

4. Signs of Breathing Problems in Children. British Lung Foundation.

5. Signs of Respiratory Distress in Children. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.