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Causes of acute respiratory distress in children

Debra L Weiner, MD, PhD
Section Editor
Gary R Fleisher, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


Respiratory distress in children, particularly neonates and infants, must be promptly recognized and aggressively treated because children may decompensate quickly. Respiratory arrest is the most common cause of cardiac arrest in children. Factors that exacerbate rapid respiratory compromise in children as compared to adults include smaller airways, increased metabolic demands, decreased respiratory reserves, and inadequate compensatory mechanisms. (See "Emergency airway management in children: Unique pediatric considerations".)

This topic will review causes of acute respiratory distress in children. A detailed discussion of the approach to children with acute respiratory distress and approach to children with severe upper airway obstruction is found elsewhere. (See "Emergency evaluation and immediate management of acute respiratory distress in children" and "Emergency evaluation of acute upper airway obstruction in children".)

Other related topics including the initial assessment and stabilization of children with respiratory and circulatory compromise and airway management techniques, including rapid sequence intubation (RSI), and conditions causing respiratory distress in newborns are discussed separately:

(See "Initial assessment and stabilization of children with respiratory or circulatory compromise".)

(See "Basic airway management in children".)


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Nov 24, 2014.
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