Respiratory distress is one of the most common chief complaints for which children seek medical care. It accounts for nearly 10 percent of pediatric emergency department visits and 20 percent of hospitalizations .
Respiratory distress in children, particularly neonates and infants, must be promptly recognized and aggressively treated because they may decompensate quickly. Factors that contribute to rapid respiratory compromise in children include smaller airways, increased metabolic demands, decreased respiratory reserves, and inadequate compensatory mechanisms as compared to adults. Respiratory arrest is the most common cause of cardiac arrest in children and outcomes are poor for patients who develop cardiopulmonary arrest as the result of respiratory deterioration [2-5].
The initial assessment and stabilization of children with respiratory and circulatory compromise including airway management techniques, rapid sequence intubation (RSI), causes of respiratory compromise in children, and conditions causing respiratory distress in newborns are discussed separately:
The differential diagnosis of acute respiratory compromise in children is discussed in detail separately (table 1). (See "Causes of acute respiratory compromise in children".)