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How to Tell When a Child Has Labored Breathing

author image Erica Roth
Erica Roth has been a writer since 2007. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a college reference librarian for eight years. Roth earned a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from Brandeis University and Master of Library Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her articles appear on various websites.
How to Tell When a Child Has Labored Breathing
Child Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Croup, the common cold and chronic asthma are among the childhood illnesses and medical conditions that can cause your little one to develop labored breathing. Breathing trouble can be very scary for both parents and child, but in some cases can be remedied by medications that clear congestion or reduce swelling in the airways. Recognize the symptoms of labored breathing in order to get your child the appropriate medical care and to prevent serious complications.

Step 1

Listen to your child as he breathes. Symptoms of labored breathing, especially when your child has a respiratory illness, includes wheezing and high pitched noises with each breath. Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital explains that these noises, called stridor, are common in croup, a condition in which your child's airways swell. Labored breathing can also become abnormally fast, similar to the panting of a dog.

Step 2

Look at your child's chest to determine if she is having breathing difficulties. AskDrSears.com reports that infants who experience labored breathing may show unusual movements in the chest, referred to as "caving in" with each breath. MedlinePlus from the National Institutes of Health indicates that older children who suffer from breathing problems due to a chest injury might also show abnormal chest movements during respiration.

Step 3

Watch for changes in your child's skin color. If he's having a hard time breathing, he may not get enough oxygen. The lack of oxygen might manifest itself as a blue or gray color of the skin, especially in the lips and fingers, according to MedlinePlus.

Step 4

Ask your older child if he's experiencing chest pain or lightheadedness, symptoms that can accompany labored breathing. If your child can't answer you or seems confused this is another sign that he isn't able to breathe normally. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your child becomes unresponsive.

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