One of the questions parents ask often is whether their children breathing or heart rate are too high. This is a very important question as most current early warning scores use such variables to flag up children who may be unwell and in danger. However, breathing rate and heart rate change considerably from the newborn period into late childhood and there is no one size fits all to define what is normal.
Researchers from Norway have measured the breathing rate in the first 24 hours of life in 953 infants. The authors were able to create percentiles and define lower and upper limits of normal for children in the first day of life (Figure 1). This data will be valuable for those specialists looking after newborn babies. The authors clearly show that breathing rate is higher in the first 4 hours of life and progressively becomes more stable in the following 20 hours.
For those interested in the normal range for heart rate and breathing (respiratory) rate in children up to the age of 18 years, the ranges are shown in figure 2. Heart rate and berthing rate progressively drop to adult values as children get older.
Please click here for a printer friendly table of the normal values.