Vital Sign – Respiration


The rate at which we breathe is one of our vital signs. When we breathe in we obtain oxygen and when we breathe out we expel carbon dioxide. Checking the breathing rate is an important way to make sure someone’s respiratory tract is healthy and functioning.

Manual Measuring Breathing Rate

Count the breaths. Breathing is measured in breaths per minute or bpm. To get an accurate measurement, you must be at rest. This means you are not breathing faster than usual due to exercising. You should be still for at least 10 minutes before measuring respiration.

  • Sit up straight. If you are measuring an infant, lay the baby flat on her back on a firm surface.

  • Use a stop watch to time one minute. Count the number of times your chest rises and falls during that minute.

  • One challenge in counting our breathing is that when you are going to measure your breathing, you are likely to change your breathing rate without realizing it. You must breathe normally. To improve the accuracy of your result, you can take the measurement three times and average the answers.

  • If you are pressed for time, count the breaths in a 15 second window, then multiply the number of breaths by 4. This gives a close approximation of breaths per minute and is useful in emergency situation.

The easiest way to get your Respiration is to use Phware Sense. You should be still for at least 10 minutes before measuring respiration. Sit up straight, use your left or right index finger into the Phware Sense probe and hold for a minute. Try not to think about your breathing and breathe normally to improve the accuracy of the result.

What is the normal range?

Children breathe faster than adults so you need to compare your number to the normal number of breaths per minute for the person’s age group. The rates are as follows.

  • 30 to 60 bpm for an infant who is 0 to 6 months old

  • 24 to 30 bpm for an infant who is 6 to 12 months old

  • 20 to 30 bpm for a child who is 1 to 5 years old

  • 12 to 20 for a child who is 6 to 11 years old

  • 12 to 18 for someone who is 12 or older

Avoiding hyperventilation due to anxiety

Some people breathe very quickly, called hyperventilation, when they are anxious or panicking. This can lead to the feeling of not being able to catch your breath even though you are getting too much oxygen while breathing too fast. If someone you are with experiences this you can:

  • Reassure the person and help her relax. Tell her that she is not having a heart attack and is not going to die. Assure her that she is doing ok.

  • Have the person adopt breathing techniques that will reduce the amount of oxygen she gets. She can: breathe into a paper bag, purse her lips, or cover one nostril and her mouth while breathing. As the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in her system returns to normal, she should feel better.

  • You can also help the person to relax by advising them to concentrate on a single object on the horizon, such as a tree or building. Or, you can also tell them to close their eyes to ease the sense of panic the person might feel.

  • Encourage the person to see a doctor.

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