Will a child need critical care for severe respiratory infections?

Dr. Diana K. Blythe, MD

Whether or not a child needs critical care for severe respiratory infections depends on how severe the respiratory infection. If extra oxygen is needed, admission to the hospital is required. How much oxygen is needed and how much respiratory distress the child has determines whether the child needs critical care or not. In addition, past medical history and age play a large role. For newborns, immune compromised and very sick children or underlying lung problems, a more conservative approach is taken. They may be admitted for critical care earlier for both treatment and because they have the potential to get worse more quickly.

If a child with a severe respiratory infection develops respiratory failure he or she will require critical care. At this point the chest muscles have tired and the child can no longer breathe adequately. This results in the oxygen lowering and carbon dioxide increasing in the blood. A ventilator will breathe for the child until the cause of respiratory distress improves.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.