Respiratory Problems,Age 11 and Younger - Topic Overview
The most common sites for
bacterial infections in the upper respiratory system are the sinuses and
sinus infection is an example of an upper respiratory
pneumonia may follow a viral illness or appear as the
first sign of a lower respiratory infection. In babies and small children, the
first sign of infection often is rapid breathing, irritability, decreased
activity, and poor feeding. Antibiotics are effective against bacterial
Tuberculosis is a less common bacterial
infection of the lower respiratory system.
Allergies are a common cause of
respiratory problems. Allergy symptoms in children include:
- Clear, runny drainage from the nose or a stuffy nose. Children
often rub their noses by pushing the tip upward with the palm of the hand
- Sneezing and watery eyes. Often there are dark circles under the
eyes ("allergic shiners").
- Irritability and loss of appetite.
Babies and small children usually do not have
asthma. But the number of new cases of asthma
increases with age.
- In babies and small children, a hacking cough may be the only
symptom of mild asthma.
- If asthma worsens, symptoms may include wheezing and shortness of
breath after exercise or at nighttime.
- In severe asthma, difficulty breathing (using the neck, chest,
and abdominal muscles to breathe) and a high-pitched sound when breathing
(wheezing) are the most common symptoms.
Allergies and asthma often occur together. For more information,
see the topic
Asthma in Children.
Besides asthma, allergies, and
infection, other possible causes of respiratory problems in children
- Exposure to cigarette smoke. Tobacco smoke impairs lung growth
and development. Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke, even before birth
(prenatal), are more likely to have asthma and other respiratory
- Blockage of the airway by an
inhaled object, such as food, a piece of a balloon, or
a small toy. For more information, see the topic
- Problems that have been present from birth (genetic causes), such
Babies and children younger than age 3 may have more
symptoms with respiratory problems than older children, and they may become
more ill. For this reason, younger children need to be watched more closely.
The type and severity of the symptoms helps determine whether your child needs
to see a doctor.
Use the Check Your Symptoms section to decide if
and when your child should see a doctor.