What is Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

Respiratory Distress Syndrome refers to a medical condition found in babies where the lungs are not completely formed at the time of birth. This can be easily seen within a few hours of the birth when the baby finds is extremely challenging to cry or breathe as the lungs do not function normally.


The breathing rate of a baby with Respiratory Distress Syndrome is very high and the baby makes a grunting sound with every exhalation. The chest wall and the rib area of the baby also move inwards while breathing. There is also visible cyanosis around the lips in a baby with Respiratory Distress Syndrome.


Before birth the baby does not use the lungs for breathing as the required oxygen is given to the baby by way of blood of the mother. Once the baby is born, the lungs start to function and provide the body with the required oxygen.

For normal functioning of the lungs, a substance called surfactant is produced by the baby. Respiratory Distress Syndrome occurs when there is a lack of surfactant in the body and in turn the lungs do not function and collapse with each breath that the child takes.


What is Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

How Long Does Respiratory Distress Syndrome Last & Can Respiratory Failure Cause Death?

A baby with respiratory failure due to respiratory distress syndrome will be put on a ventilator to provide the necessary oxygen and a breathing tube will be fitted in. This will be continued for a few days and as the lungs start to slowly function normally the amount of oxygen given to the baby will also be lowered till the time the baby is able to breathe without any assistance.

At this time, the breathing tube is also removed. This process usually takes about a couple of weeks. After this time, majority of the babies start to breathe normally and no longer require ventilator assistance or breathing tubes.

Respiratory failure due to respiratory distress syndrome is not a fatal disease if treated promptly. Almost all babies with this condition outgrow it within maximum a month of life and go on to lead healthy lives. This condition does not cause any damage to the brain or other vital structures of the body as a result of oxygen deprivation. It is extremely rare for a child to have succumbed to respiratory failure due to respiratory distress syndrome.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: June 20, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer


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