How Do You Assess the Airway and Breathing of a Baby?

Unlike adults, children breathe at different respirations per minute (rpm) according to age. Assessing the baby's airway and breathing is necessary to establish respiratory status.

Breathing is usually the first vital sign to alter the deteriorating patient. How do we assess airway and breathing in humans? Read along and find out what we need to know in assessing a baby’s airway and breathing.

Why is airway and breathing assessment important?

The airway is the most critical priority in a patient. It is essential to open and clear the airway to allow free air access to the distal endobronchial tree. Airway assessment aims to identify obstructions of the airway. The leading causes of airway obstruction are foreign body and aspiration.

Maintaining an open airway allows air to flow from the nose and mouth into the lungs. Airway management is an essential skill for clinicians in critical situations and is fundamental to the practice of emergency medicine.

The respiratory assessment aims to ascertain the patient's respiratory status and provide information related to other systems, such as the cardiovascular and neurological systems. Breathing is usually the first vital sign to alter in the deteriorating patient.

How do you assess airway and breathing for a baby?

When assessing the airway, you should consider the following:

  • Is there airway patency?
  • Are there any signs of airway obstruction?
  • Is the patient making noises (e.g. stridor, snoring)?
  • Does the patient have a hoarse voice?
  • Is there any neck swelling or bruising?
  • Is there a foreign body present?

Watch this video demonstration and learn how to assess the airway and breathing of a baby.

How do you check a baby's airway?

Assess the baby's airway by looking in the mouth for foreign objects or vomit. If the baby has anything foreign in their mouth, roll them onto their side and clear the mouth with your little finger. Check for normal breathing by keeping their head in a neutral position and looking, listening and feeling for breath.

What are the signs of respiratory distress in babies?

Below is a list of some signs that may indicate your child is not getting enough oxygen. It's essential to learn the signs of respiratory distress to know how to respond appropriately:

  • Breathing rate - An increase in the number of breaths per minute may mean a person is having trouble breathing or not getting enough oxygen.
  • Increased heart rate - Low oxygen levels may cause an increase in heart rate. 
  • Colour changes - A bluish colour is seen around the mouth, inside the lips or the fingernails. It may happen when a person is not getting as much oxygen as needed. The colour of the skin may also appear pale or grey.
  • Grunting - A grunting sound can be heard each time the person exhales. This grunting is the body's way of trying to keep the air in the lungs so they will stay open.
  • Nose flaring - The openings of the nose spreading open while breathing may mean that a person must work harder to breathe.
  • Retractions - The chest appears to sink in just below the neck and/or under the breastbone with each breath--one way of trying to bring more air into the lungs.
  • Sweating - There may be increased sweat on the head, but the skin doesn't feel warm to the touch. More often, the skin may feel cool or clammy.
  • Wheezing - A tight, whistling or musical sound heard with each breath can mean that the air passages may be smaller, making breathing harder.
  • Stridor - An inspiratory sound heard in the upper airway.
  • Accessory muscle use - The neck muscles appear to be moving when your child breathes in. It can also be seen under the rib cage or the muscles between the ribs.
  • Changes in alertness - Low oxygen levels may cause your child to act very tiredly and indicate respiratory fatigue.
  • Body positions - Low oxygen and trouble breathing may force your child to thrust their head backwards with the nose up in the air (especially if lying down). Or, your child may lean forward while sitting. A child automatically uses these positions as a last attempt to improve breathing. 

The signs of respiratory distress may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your child's healthcare provider for a diagnosis, but if your child has trouble breathing, call 911 or go immediately to the closest emergency room.

Why is it important to recognise that an infant needs rescue breathing?

It's important to quickly recognise breathing emergencies in children and infants and provide treatment before their hearts stop beating. In adults, when their hearts stop beating, it's typically because of a disease.

When a child's or an infant's heart stops beating, it's usually the result of a breathing emergency. When helping a child with respiratory problems, remember that a lower airway disease may be caused by birth problems or infections such as bronchiolitis, bronchospasms, pneumonia, or croup.

Where can I find airway and breathing of a baby training courses and qualifications?

The Mandatory Training Group is the leading UK provider of accredited statutory and mandatory training courses for all sectors, including health and social care, education, local government, private companies, charitable and third sector organisations.

Alternatively, you can contact our helpful Support Team byclicking hereto tell us your airway and breathing of a baby training courses and qualifications.

Online airway and breathing of a baby training courses and qualifications

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Frequently asked questions and answers about the airway and breathing of a baby

Here at The Mandatory Training Group, we receive many questions about the airway and breathing of a baby. We have selected a few of these questions and answered them below.

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How do you assess the airway and breathing of a baby? - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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