Labored breathing is a medical emergency. Breathing is an automatic process, regulated in the brainstem. Working to breathe is usually a sign of a serious medical problem requiring immediate intervention.
Adult respiratory distress syndrome
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Burns (inhalation injury)
Foreign body, swallowed
Patent ductus arteriosus
Diagnosis and Treatments
A complete history and physical by a qualified provider to assess and treat any underlying condition will be needed to determine the cause of labored breathing. Diagnostic studies may include chest x-rays, CT scan, blood test, arterial blood gases, or ventilation/perfusion scan of the lungs. Treatment will depend on the findings, with the immediate goal of adequate ventilation.
For labored breathing, especially if accompanied by:
Loss of consciousness
Shortness of breath
Gasping for breath
Pallor (pale skin)
Cyanosis (skin turns blue)
Coughing up blood
Written by: JC Jones MA, RN Reviewed by: Paul Auerbach, MD Written: November 30, 2007 Last Updated: November 30, 2007 Published By:
Healthline Networks Inc.