Respiratory rates in pediatric emergency patients

J Emerg Med. Jul-Aug 1992;10(4):407-10. doi: 10.1016/0736-4679(92)90268-x.


Respiratory rates are routinely measured in pediatric emergency patients. The normal range has not been established, and commonly reported ranges seem lower than those encountered in clinical practice. This prospective study selected subjects from pediatric patients presenting for care to a suburban emergency department. All respiratory rates were measured for one full minute. Patients with complaints related to the cardiopulmonary system or with an elevated temperature were excluded. A total of 434 patients were entered into the study over a 3-month period of time. Ages ranged from 2 weeks to 18 years. Respiratory rates ranged from a high of 65 breaths/min in a 4-month-old to a low of 12 breaths/min in a 14-year-old. Respiratory rate was inversely related to age, and there was a broad range in every age group. Our study shows that a normal respiratory rate is inversely related to age and is higher than noted in previously published studies. The wide range of "normal" pediatric respiratory rates makes identification of "abnormal" more difficult.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pediatrics*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration / physiology*
  • Respiration Disorders / diagnosis