Learning About Respiratory Failure in Children

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What is respiratory failure?

A child's respiratory system

Respiratory failure happens when your child's lungs can't get enough oxygen to the blood. This is a severe problem that needs to be treated in intensive care.

Your child's eyes, brain, heart, and other organs depend on the steady supply of oxygen they get from the blood. The doctor will try to get enough oxygen to your child's organs to keep them healthy and your child safe.

Many things can cause your child's lungs to fail. This includes pneumonia and other serious infections. The doctor will look for the cause of your child's problem and then treat it if possible.

How is it treated?

  • To help your child's lungs get enough oxygen to the blood, the doctor will:
    • Put a soft rubber or plastic tube through your child's nose or mouth. The tube goes into the windpipe (trachea).
    • Attach the tube to a machine that will help your child breathe or that will breathe for your child. This machine is called a ventilator. It also controls how much air and oxygen flow into your child's lungs.
  • Your child will get medicine to help with relaxation or sleep and will get fluid through an intravenous tube (IV).
  • Your child will get regular tests to see how much oxygen is in the blood. Tests also can show how well the lungs are working. These tests help your doctor adjust the ventilator.
  • The doctor will watch your child closely. He or she will take your child off of the ventilator a little at a time as your child starts to breathe without it.
  • The doctor will look for the cause of the problem and then treat it if possible. Your child will be kept comfortable and warm.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: May 23, 2016