Tachypnea is characterised by rapid, shallow breathing. This feeling can imply that you are not getting enough air in your lungs. This symptom can affect people of all ages, but it is most common in newborns and people with respiratory conditions. You can prevent this symptom by getting treatment for the underlying cause.
What exactly is tachypnea?
Tachypnea (pronounced “tuh-KIP-nee-uh”) happens when you breathe rapidly and shallowly. Transient tachypnea occurs when your breathing rate increases but then returns to normal. Several medical conditions can cause tachypnea.
Tachypnea can attack both children and adults. It is most common in premature infants and adults with respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD.
When you exercise or participate in a strenuous activity like running, you usually experience rapid breathing. Tachypnea can also occur when you are at rest.
How does tachypnea look and feel?
Tachypnea can result in the following:
1. Your skin, nails, or lips will be a blue or grey colour.
2. Chest pain
3. Breathing is difficult.
4. You can’t seem to get enough air.
5. Having difficulty breathing.
Tachypnea can indicate a medical emergency. If you or your baby is having trouble breathing, call 000 or go to the emergency room immediately.
How can I tell if I’m breathing too quickly?
At home, you can check your breathing rate by counting the number of breaths you take per minute. An infant’s standard breathing rate ranges from 40 to 60 breaths per minute. At rest, adults have an average breathing rate of 12 to 25 breaths per minute (no activity).
If your baby’s respiratory rate exceeds 60 breaths per minute, they have transient tachypnea. Adults who breathe more than 25 times per minute at rest are at risk of developing tachypnea.
What are the main reasons for tachypnea?
Tachypnea is a symptom of several medical conditions, including:
1. Allergic reactions.
2. Panic disorder or anxiety.
4. Blood clots
5. Poisoning from carbon monoxide.
6. Obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
7. Diabetic ketoacidosis
8. Pleural effusion
10. Pulmonary embolism
Breathing difficulties in newborns
Transient tachypnea is a newborn’s temporary fast breathing rate. Symptoms usually appear soon after birth. According to a 2021 article, transient tachypnea affects 10% of babies born at 33-34 weeks and 5% at 35-36 weeks.
A baby’s lungs contain fluid while developing in the womb. As the baby approaches full term, its body begins to absorb fluid so that its lungs are ready to breathe air after birth.
The body does not fully absorb the fluid in some newborns, and the baby tends to increase its breathing rate to make up the difference for the reduced oxygen absorption.
Without treatment, symptoms usually resolve within 24-72 hours. They may, however, require treatment in some cases.
Several factors will influence how a doctor treats newborn tachypnea, including:
1. Their tolerance for various treatment methods, their baby’s gestational age, medical history, and overall health
2. The severity of the condition
3. The preferences of the parents
Typical treatment includes:
1. Determining blood oxygen levels
2. Supplemental oxygen
3. Tubes to help prevent aspiration
4. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
What is the treatment for tachypnea?
To treat tachypnea, a medical professional may mask your face or insert a tube into your nostrils to administer oxygen. This procedure is standard for infants and young children.
Tachypnea treatment for older children and adults usually consists of taking slow, deep breaths to stop hyperventilation. It consists of breathing in slowly through your nose and exhaling through your mouth or nose. This breathing method helps your lungs to expand fully and fill with air, which can help you unwind.
Treatment for the underlying cause resolves the symptom and prevents it from recurring, depending on the grounds of tachypnea. This type of treatment could include the following:
1. Taking antibiotics, anticoagulants, or antihistamines.
2. Making use of an inhaler (bronchodilator).
3. Participating in anxiety-relief cognitive behavioural therapy.
What is the duration of tachypnea?
Transient tachypnea in infants usually resolves within two to three days. Older children and adults recover quickly after being treated for the underlying cause of their tachypnea. Tachypnea can reoccur if the underlying cause is not addressed.
How is tachypnea avoided?
Not all causes of tachypnea are avoidable. You can reduce your risk of tachypnea by doing the following:
1. Keeping allergens at bay.
2. Regular exercise increases endurance.
3. Avoid areas with a lot of smoke or pollution.
4. Installing a carbon monoxide detector and replacing the batteries every six months.
5. To treat anxiety, consult with a mental health professional.
6. Taking care of any underlying conditions.
When should a healthcare provider treat tachypnea?
If you experience tachypnea symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. If you have any of the following symptoms, consider going to the emergency room:
1. Chest ache
2. Breathing difficulties
3. Rapid breathing (something you’ve never experienced before).
4. Skin, nails, and lips that are blue or grey.
Most tachypnea cases are not life-threatening, but insufficient oxygen can harm your body and impact your brain and heart function without treatment.
A message from the Heartscope Specialist Group
Although tachypnea can be frightening, it does not always indicate a severe problem.
Tachypnea should not be treated at home. The causes vary greatly, and some necessitate immediate medical attention.
To determine the cause and ensure prompt treatment, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Early detection of heart and respiratory problems increases the chances of restoring your body’s health. Schedule an appointment with the Heartscope Specialist group if you suffer from any significant causes of heart or respiratory problems.