When Does a Toddler Need Breathing Treatments?

A breathing treatment is a type of process that administers medication to help a child breathe easier. It is ordered by a physician who also prescribes the dose of medication to use. Breathing treatments help to reduce swelling or inflammation in the lungs due to some illnesses or allergic reactions. A breathing treatment is typically administered as a nebulizer, which sends the medication in vaporized form for a toddler to breathe into her lungs.


A toddler’s respiratory system is similar to that of an adult’s, although the average respiratory rate for toddlers is approximately 24 to 40 times per minute, which is faster than adults, who normally breathe at a rate of 12 to 16 times per minute. Toddlers take in air through the mouth or nose and it travels down the trachea, which is in the neck. Air then travels through one of two tubes called bronchi, which lead into the lungs. Once in the lungs, the bronchi split into smaller segments called bronchioles that are controlled by their own type of muscle tissue to expand and contract for breathing.


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Asthma occurs in toddlers when an environmental stimulus triggers the bronchioles of the lungs to tighten, causing difficulty moving air in and out of the lungs. Asthma causes wheezing with breathing and an increased respiratory rate. A nebulizer is one way to treat the symptoms of asthma, particularly if a child is in frequent contact with stimuli that trigger attacks, such as pet dander or cigarette smoke.


Croup is a condition that causes the airways to narrow and is usually the result of a virus. According to Children’s Hospital Boston, croup can occur from illnesses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus or the flu virus. Croup causes noisy breathing called stridor when the small airways of the lungs swell. Breathing treatments for toddlers with croup help to relax the airways to facilitate easier breathing until the virus has passed.


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A nebulizer comes with several parts that need assembly for use. When a toddler needs a breathing treatment, the prescribed medication is added to a cup on the nebulizer attached to tubing that leads to an oxygen compressor. After turning the compressor on, the pressure through the tubing vaporizes the liquid into a breathable form. Place the mask over your toddler’s mouth and nose or hold it near his face to breathe in the medication mist. When the medication is gone, the vapor disappears, which usually takes about 10 minutes.


Using a nebulizer for a breathing treatment is one way to manage respiratory problems for a young child. Toddlers may not understand how to breathe in medications that are administered through an inhaler. Those who are having breathing difficulties may become anxious and unable to calm down to take medication. A nebulizer provides a passive form of medication administration so a toddler needs only to breathe in the vapors to get the medication she needs.