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Diaphragm
Diaphragm


Diaphragm and lungs
Diaphragm and lungs


Respiratory system
Respiratory system


Rapid shallow breathing

Definition:

A normal breathing rate for an adult at rest is 8 to 16 breaths per minute. For an infant, a normal rate is up to 44 breaths per minute.

Tachypnea is the term that your doctor uses to describe your breathing if it is too fast, especially if you have fast, shallow breathing from a lung disease or other medical cause.

The term hyperventilation is usually used if you are taking rapid, deep breaths. This can be due to lung disease or because of anxiety or panic. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably.



Alternative Names:

Tachypnea; Breathing - rapid and shallow; Fast shallow breathing; Respiratory rate - rapid and shallow



Causes:

Shallow, rapid breathing has many possible medical causes, including:

  • Asthma
  • Blood clot in an artery in the lung
  • Choking
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary COPD and other chronic lung diseases
  • Heart failure
  • Infection in the smallest air passages of the lungs in children (bronchiolitis )
  • Pneumonia or other lung infection
  • Transient tachypnea of the newborn


Home Care:

Rapid, shallow breathing should not be treated at home and is generally considered a medical emergency.

If you have asthma or COPD, use your inhaler medicines as prescribed by your doctor. You may still need to be checked by a health care provider right away. Your doctor will explain when it is important to go to the emergency room.



When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you are breathing rapidly and you have:

  • Bluish or grayish color to the skin, nails, gums, lips, or the area around the eyes (cyanosis)
  • Chest pain
  • Chest that is pulling in with each breath
  • Fever
  • Labored or difficult breathing
  • Never had rapid breathing before
  • Symptoms that are getting more severe


What to Expect at Your Office Visit:

The health care provider will do a thorough exam of your heart, lungs, abdomen, and head and neck.

Tests that may be ordered include:

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the rapid breathing. Treatment may include oxygen if your oxygen level is too low and nebulized respiratory treatments if you are having an asthma attack.



References:

Kraft M. Approach to the patient with respiratory diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer Al, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 83.




Review Date: 5/11/2013
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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Overlook Medical Center
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Summit, NJ 07901
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Newton Medical Center
175 High Street
Newton, NJ 07860
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Chilton Medical Center
97 West Parkway
Pompton Plains, NJ 07444
973-831-5000

Goryeb Children's Hospital
100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
973-971-5000

Atlantic Medical Group
1-800-247-9580

Morristown Medical Center

100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
973-971-5000

Overlook Medical Center

99 Beauvoir Avenue
Summit, NJ 07901
908-522-2000

Newton Medical Center

175 High Street
Newton, NJ 07860
973-383-2121

Chilton Medical Center

97 West Parkway
Pompton Plains, NJ 07444
973-831-5000

Goryeb Children's Hospital

100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
973-971-5000

Affiliated Providers

Atlantic Medical Group

More than 600 community-based health care providers.
1-800-247-9580

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