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What Is a Normal Respiration Rate?

by
author image Sandy Keefe
Sandy Keefe, M.S.N., R.N., has been a freelance writer for over five years. Her articles have appeared in numerous health-related magazines, including "Advance for Nurses" and "Advance for Long-Term Care Management." She has written short stories in anthologies such as "A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs."
What Is a Normal Respiration Rate?
Your doctor might use a stethoscope to count your respirations. Photo Credit checking the breath with the stethoscope image by Elnur from Fotolia.com

Every time you breathe in and out, your lungs inhale oxygen-rich air and blow out carbon dioxide. The number of breaths you take in one minute is known as your respiration rate, or breathing rate. Your sex, weight, exercise tolerance and physical condition influence your baseline respiration rate, according to Medline Plus.

Trends

Premature newborns, with their tiny lungs, have to breathe rapidly to bring in enough oxygen. As children grow, their lungs mature and they're able to exchange more air with each breath. The normal respiration rate drops gradually through age 12, when it levels off, according to eMedicine Health.

Norms

If your baby is born prematurely, you can expect her respiration rate to be between 40 and 70 breaths a minute, notes eMedicine Health. Other newborns will take between 35 and 55 breaths a minute through the age of 3 months, and 3- to 6-month-olds will have a rate between 30 and 45. From 6 months through 1 year old, infants inhale and exhale 25 to 40 times a minute. Toddlers between 1 and 3 breathe 20 to 30 times a minute. The normal respiratory rate for 6- to 12-year-olds is 14 to 22. From 12 years of age onward, the normal respiration rate runs 12 to 18 times a minute, according to Medline Plus.

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Correct Procedure

To measure the respiration rate, count the number of times a person's chest rises and falls within a one-minute period. It's best to count the number of breaths when the individual is at rest, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Health-care providers might use a stethoscope to listen to the quality of your respirations.

Significance

Respiration rate, blood pressure, pulse rate and body temperature are known as the four vital signs that give your health-care provider a quick snapshot of your overall health, according to Medline Plus.

Considerations

Your respiration rate can vary significantly with illness, fever and medical conditions, according to the University of Virginia Health System. Respiration rates outside the normal range warrant medical attention. For example, you should call your pediatrician if your 2-month-old is breathing 85 times a minute.

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