What is shortness of breath?

Shortness of Breath
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Shortness of breath in children: Overview

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.

How can you care for shortness of breath in children?

  • 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 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.

Shortness of breath: When to call

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

  • You have severe shortness of breath.
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your shortness of breath gets worse or you start to wheeze. Wheezing is a high-pitched sound when you breathe.
  • You wake up at night out of breath or have to prop your head up on several pillows to breathe.
  • You are short of breath after only light activity or while at rest.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better over the next 1 to 2 days.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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