When Should I Take My Child to the ER for Changes in Breathing?
Abnormal breathing can be upsetting for any parent to witness their child. While some changes in breathing are temporary and relatively harmless, other abnormal breathing episodes may indicate a larger problem.
Irregular Breathing in Newborns
Newborns will often begin breathing faster for a few seconds and then slow down their breathing, especially when sleeping. This type of irregular breathing is normal and does not require treatment. If irregular breathing persists past the age of 6 months, call your pediatrician to ensure your child’s breathing is healthy. If your infant displays any of the symptoms listed below, immediately seek emergency care.
If Your Child Stops Breathing
If your child has stopped breathing and is not responsive, immediately begin CPR and call 911.
If your child ceases breathing for 15 seconds or more, and then resumes breathing, visit the ER. Even if your child seems fine, it is important to learn the underlying reason for the episode, and make sure it is resolved.
Many children between the age of 6 months and 6 years experience breath-holding spells, involuntary breath holding that usually occurs when the child is crying or upset. Children who experience these spells do not need emergency care unless the incident results in unconsciousness or a seizure. In these cases, it is best to visit the ER to make sure there are no serious underlying causes for the seizure or unconsciousness.
Changes in Breathing
If your child seems to be having a hard time breathing, or you notice abnormal behavior or actions, it may be time to seek emergency care. Visit the ER if you notice these symptoms:
- Breathing that is faster than normal
- Breathing harder than usual without exertion
- Chest and abdomen look like a see-saw (one goes up while the other goes down)
- Bluish hue to the lips or skin
- Persistent barking cough or wheezing
- High-pitched squeaky sound in the upper airway
- Placing weight on the hands in a tripod position while hyperextending the neck
If your child is recovering from a choking episode in which he or she turned blue but returned to normal, it is still a good idea to visit the ER to ensure there are no longer-term consequences.
The Medical Center of Aurora offers 3 ER locations:
- Main Campus ER — Level II Trauma Center, with dedicated Pediatric Care provided by board-certified pediatric emergency physicians between the hours of 3-10 p.m.
- Centennial Medical Plaza ER — RMHC Pediatric Care Network
- Saddle Rock ER
All locations are open 24/7 and are staffed by board-certified emergency physicians and experienced nurses. Please see the map below for locations, addresses, and phone numbers.