Pediatric Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)

Pediatric Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)

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Summary

Pediatric respiratory distress syndrome is a breathing disorder that affects premature babies.

Expanded overview

Pediatric respiratory distress syndrome is a breathing disorder that happens to premature newborns when they lack enough surfactant to coat the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs. Surfactant is a substance that coats the alveoli to keep the air sacs open so newborns can breathe in oxygen. Without enough surfactant, the alveoli remain closed and the baby's lungs collapse. If left untreated, pediatric respiratory distress syndrome can cause brain damage, organ damage or death.

Causes

The main risk factor for pediatric respiratory distress syndrome is prematurity (born before 37 weeks’ gestation). A baby whose mother has diabetes also increases a baby's risk of having pediatric respiratory distress syndrome.

Symptoms

Symptoms of pediatric respiratory distress syndrome are seen at birth or immediately after birth and include:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Blue skin color due to lack of oxygen in the blood (cyanosis)
  • Flaring of nostrils during breathing
  • Grunting noise when breathing out
  • Unable to breathe at birth

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