It is ESSENTIAL to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of respiratory distress in children. There are some signs that differentiate from an adult in respiratory distress. Also, a child may not be able to communicate and express that they are in respiratory distress as well as an adult. Sometimes, signs could be missed leading to a preventable disorder or death.

Signs and symptoms of respiratory distress in pediatrics:

  • Nasal flaring
  • Chest wall and sternal retractions
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Cyanosis
  • Cool and moist skin
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Grunting
  • Stridor
  • Wheezing



Often in response to pain, grunting may indicate pulmonary edema.


Upper airway may indicate epiglottitis laryngospasm.


Lower airway may indicate asthma aspiration of foreign body.