Did you know that in Spain more children die by drowning than in traffic accidents? In fact, death by drowning is the third leading cause of infant death worldwide. Likewise, cases of suffocation due to bronchial aspiration or choking are quite frequent, especially during the first years of life when the respiratory system is still immature and the child is not capable of eliminating the excess mucus or liquid that may accumulate in its passageways. In these cases, the baby may have difficulty breathing normally, or simply stop breathing, so it is important to know some first aid maneuvers that can save your life.
How to know if your baby has difficulty breathing?
Babies tend to breathe faster than adults because they have a smaller lung capacity. A newborn’s respiratory rate is about 40 breaths per minute, which can decrease to between 20 and 40 breaths per minute while sleeping. During the first months of life, what is known as periodic breathing is also common, which consists of an irregular breathing pattern in which the baby takes several rapid breaths, pauses briefly for a few seconds, and then breathes again.
It’s important to keep in mind that a baby’s breathing pattern can change from moment to moment depending on their activity, but if you suddenly notice that your baby isn’t breathing as usual, you may want to pay attention to other signs that could indicate that your respiratory function is failing. In this sense, breathing difficulties are usually accompanied by:
- Nasal flaring. This is one of the first signs that the baby is having trouble breathing. You will be able to tell if when breathing, the little one’s nostrils widen much more than usual.
- Apnea or agonal breathing. This is a common sound made by babies with breathing difficulties. Basically, it consists of stopping breathing for a few seconds followed by a great inspiration that is accompanied by a sound of agony.
- Cough. In cases of choking, it is common for the child to start coughing. This is a natural response of the body to try to expel mucus, fluid or foreign objects from the airways.
- Cyanosis. If you notice your baby starting to turn blue, this could be a sign that he doesn’t have enough oxygen. Cyanosis usually begins on the lips and fingertips, but as it progresses it may be noticeable on other parts of the body.
- Loss of consciousness. When the absence of oxygen has been prolonged and it has stopped reaching the baby’s brain, it is common for a loss of consciousness to occur. You will know that your baby has lost consciousness if she does not respond to any stimulus.
- Weakening of vital signs. This is one of the most serious signs that reveals a shortness of breath in babies. It occurs due to lack of oxygen and can be easily noticed as the baby does not react to any stimuli, has a too weak pulse or breathing.
This is how you can resuscitate a baby with breathing difficulties
The first few minutes after a child stops breathing are essential to save his life and prevent brain damage due to lack of oxygen. There are some first aid maneuvers that you can put into practice in an emergency so as not to waste a single second. However, if these maneuvers do not work and you notice that the baby has stopped breathing, you can always resort to cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also known as the CPR technique, basically consists of a manual substitution maneuver for respiratory and circulatory functions. Basically, it is a combination of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to provide oxygen to the lungs and cardiac compressions to keep the blood circulating.
This technique is recommended when respiratory arrest, loss of consciousness, or loss of vital signs occurs. Although its essence is the same, in the case of babies, cardiopulmonary resuscitation follows some different guidelines than that of adults. These are the steps to follow:
- After checking if the little one is conscious, check if he is breathing by opening his airway with one hand on his forehead and the other on his chin. Keep in mind that in the case of babies it is not necessary to extend the neck, just align the head and chest. With his ear close to her mouth, he looks at her chest to see if her chest rises with her breath. If he is breathing, place him in a safe lateral position and continue to assess his breathing until emergency services arrive.
- If when checking the breathing, the baby does not breathe, carry out 5 slow ventilations. To do this, inhale enough air and, performing a mouth-to-mouth-nose in which you occupy both the infant’s mouth and nose, slowly insufflate the air until you see that the chest rises slightly. Move away from the little one to take another breath and repeat the procedure another four times. Even if you think you haven’t performed a breath well, don’t do more than 5 reps.
- After ventilations, check if the little one responds, coughs, breathes or moves. If he still doesn’t react to any stimuli, start cardiac massage. Using your ring and middle fingers, place them perpendicular to the sternum, either one finger below the jaw line or one finger above the lower third of the sternum. In this position, perform 30 compressions, sinking the chest between a third and a half of its depth, followed by 2 breaths of air. Compressions should be at a fast rate and without pauses.
If the little one is still not breathing, continue with CPR until the emergency services arrive. In this way, you will ensure that the blood continues to circulate and that oxygen reaches the entire body until you receive specialized help. Remember that if the little one begins to breathe on his own, you must stop the maneuver since otherwise it could be counterproductive.