Skip to main content

You are here

Signs of breathing problems in children

When should I call 999 about my child's breathing?

Call 999 now if your child has any of these breathing-related symptoms.

Your child may need urgent treatment if:

  • Your child has severe breathing difficulties or is exhausted from trying to breathe.
  • You can see the muscles under their ribs sucking in with each breath.      
  • Your child is grunting (making a sound when breathing out) with the effort of trying to breathe. Their nostrils may flare in and out and they may be pursing their lips.
  • Your child is breathing faster than usual, or rapidly breathing and panting.    
  • You're unable to wake your child or, if woken up, they are very drowsy and don't stay awake
  • Your child’s breathing stops for 20 seconds or more on one occasion, or there are regular shorter pauses in their breathing while they are awake. 
  • Your child’s skin turns very pale or blue, or the inside of their lips and tongue are blue.   
  • Your child has had or is having a fit and has never had one before
  • If your child has asthma and their reliever inhaler isn’t helping or they need it again within four hours, this could be the sign of an asthma attack and you should seek urgent advice. If they’ve had ten puffs of their reliever inhaler and are no better call 999.

If you’re worried about your child’s breathing and afraid your child is becoming very ill right now, it’s vital to act quickly. They may need urgent treatment.

Next: Seeing a doctor about your child’s breathing >

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.