Breathing rate, also known as a respiratory rate, is the number of breaths that you take per minute at rest. Breathing rate is a general indicator of the health of your lungs and cardiovascular system. It changes very rapidly in response to excitement and stress, for example, during physical exercise. The normal breathing rate in a teenager is typically the same as adults, between 12 and 16 breaths per minute. As a child progresses from early to late teens, however, there should be a natural decrease in resting breathing rate.
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Breathing rate is a measurement of how well your lungs are delivering oxygen to your body. A normal breathing rate implies that you are receiving adequate oxygen and your lungs and heart are working well together. An abnormal breathing rate can either imply a normal change in oxygen requirement, such as during exercise or sleep, or it can represent a physiological problem.
Resting respiratory rates tend to decrease as you increase in age. Newborns can have breathing rates of up to 60 breaths per minute, but by the time a child reaches 12 years of age, the normal range is 18 to 30 breaths per minute. An adult respiratory rate is 12 to 16 breaths per minute, and an older teenager will have a rate closer to that of an adult. A younger teenager, however, will likely have a faster respiratory rate that is more in line with the rate of a 12-year old.
It is of critical importance to track a teenager's breathing rate over time. As he ages, the rate should decrease from the pre-adolescent to the adult rate. However, taking a single measurement during the teenage years could be misleading, depending on the development rate of the teen.
Tracking breathing rate over time gives an accurate measurement of cardiovascular development. Additionally, measuring the increase in respiration rate during periods of exercise gives a good measurement of the body's response to cardiovascular stress.
To measure your breathing rate, simply count the number of breaths that you take over the course of a minute. Since breathing rate tends to vary considerably, take the average number of breaths per minute over the course of two minutes. Average that measurement over three separate trials to obtain an accurate measurement of breathing rate. It is best to measure this rate while at rest, and then compare it to increased or decreased rates at other times.
Large deviations in breathing rate can be normal, such as during exercise, but they can also represent serious medical issues. Rapid rate of either deep or shallow breaths should be reported to your physician immediately, as they can be associated with medical emergencies. Similarly, abnormally slow breathing coupled with other symptoms of inadequate oxygen supply should be discussed with your doctor.