Shortness of Breath in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Shortness of breath has many causes. Sometimes conditions such as anxiety can lead to shortness of breath. Some children get mild shortness of breath when they exercise. Trouble breathing also can be a symptom of a serious problem, such as asthma, lung disease, heart problems, and pneumonia.

If your child's shortness of breath continues, he or she may need tests and treatment. Watch for any changes in your child's breathing and other symptoms.

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.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • Help your child find healthy ways to deal with stress.
    • Have your child exercise daily.
    • Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep.
    • Make sure your child eats regularly and well.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's shortness of breath gets worse or your child starts to wheeze. Wheezing is a high-pitched sound when your child breathes.
  • Your child wakes up at night out of breath or has to prop up his or her head on several pillows to breathe.
  • Your child is short of breath after only light activity or while at rest.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better over the next 1 to 2 days.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: May 27, 2016