Shortness of Breath in Infants and Children

Shortness of breath is a very serious symptom in children and should never be ignored. Knowing a doctor has diagnosed and is treating the problem should bring comfort, but if symptoms become worse, always call your child's doctor right away or go to the emergency room. This chart describes some common causes of shortness of breath in children. Take your child to your doctor right away.

Our trusted Symptom Checker is written and reviewed by physicians and patient education professionals. Find a possible diagnosis by choosing a symptom and answering a few simple questions.

Remember, be sure to consult with you doctor if you feel you have a serious medical problem.

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Does your child have a fever?

  • Does your child have a moist, productive cough and cold or flu symptoms?

  • Does your child have a sore throat and a dry, barking cough, or does he or she seem to have a very tight-feeling throat?

  • Does your child have a dry cough and cold symptoms along with shortness of breath?

  • Is your child wheezing and short of breath?

  • Does your child seem to be short of breath after he or she swallowed or choked on a toy, coin or other object?

  • Does your baby ever have times during sleep when he or she seems to stop breathing?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    Small children are prone to BRONCHIOLITIS, a cough with shortness of breath. BRONCHITIS and PNEUMONIA may also cause shortness of breath.


    Self Care

    Take your child to your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    CROUP, EPIGLOTTITIS or an ABSCESS in the tonsil could cause these symptoms. All are serious infections.


    Self Care

    Take your child to your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    Occasionally, VIRAL BRONCHITIS will cause bronchial constriction just like asthma and cause shortness of breath.


    Self Care

    Take your child to your doctor right away.


  • Self Care

    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    ASTHMA can cause wheezing and can be serious, but it’s treatable.


    Self Care

    Take your child to your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    Any small object can block an airway and cause shortness of breath or CHOKING.


    Self Care

    Take your child to your doctor right away. Watch your child closely and allow him or her to cough (this may remove the object). If necessary, carefully clear the airway with a sweeping motion of your finger. If your child is choking, perform the HEIMLICH MANEUVER immediately, then call 911.


  • Diagnosis

    Short episodes of not breathing may be normal, while longer episodes may be a warning sign of SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME (SIDS).


    Self Care

    Take your child to your doctor right away.


  • Self Care

    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.