Rapid Breathing


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By Medicover Hospitals / 08 Mar 2021
Home | symptoms | rapid-breathing
  • Rapid breathing is also called tachypnea. Abnormally rapid and often shallow breathing. Rapid breathing can have causes that are not because of an underlying disease. Examples include exercise, anxiety, stress, anger, or love.
  • Article Context:

    1. What is Rapid Breathing?
    2. Causes
    3. Diagnosis
    4. Treatment
    5. When to visit a Doctor?
    6. Home Remedies
    7. FAQ's

    What is Rapid Breathing?

  • Rapid breathing is also called tachypnea. Tachypnea is defined as a high respiratory rate or, more simply, faster than normal breathing. A normal respiratory rate can vary with age and activity but is between 12 and 20 breaths per minute for a resting adult. In contrast, the term hypercapnia refers to rapid deep breathing, while tachypnea refers to rapid, shallow breathing. Let's look at the potential causes of tachypnea and the state of health in which it can occur.
  • Causes:

  • Rapid breathing has many medical causes, such as:
    • Asthma
    • A blood clot in a pulmonary artery
    • Suffocation
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other chronic lung diseases
    • Heart failure
    • Infection of the smallest air passages of the lungs in children (bronchiolitis)
    • Pneumonia or other lung infection
    • Transient newborn tachypnea
    • Anxiety and panic
    • Other serious lung diseases


  • The diagnosis of tachypnea will vary depending on a person's age, other medical conditions, current medications, and other symptoms, but can include:
    • Oximetry: A "clip" can be placed on your finger to estimate the amount of oxygen in your blood.
    • Arterial Blood Gas (ABG): Blood gases measure the level of oxygen, carbon dioxide content, and pH of your blood. The pH can be useful in assessing metabolic abnormalities. If the pH is low (acidosis), tests may be done to look for causes such as diabetic ketoacidosis, lactic acidosis, and liver problems.
    • Chest x-ray: A chest x-ray can quickly determine some causes of tachypnea, such as a collapsed lung.
    • Computerized chest tomography (CT): A chest computed tomography may be done to look for lung disease or tumors.
    • Lung function tests: Lung function tests are very helpful in looking for conditions such as COPD and asthma.
    • Glucose: Blood sugar is often done to rule out (or confirm) diabetic ketoacidosis.
    • Electrolytes: Sodium and potassium levels help assess some causes of tachypnea.
    • Hemoglobin: A complete blood count and hemoglobin may be done to look for signs of anemia and infections.
    • Electrocardiogram (ECG): An electrocardiogram can look for signs of a heart attack or abnormal heart rhythms.
    • VQ scan: A VQ scan is often done if there is a possibility of pulmonary embolism.
    • Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): If no obvious cause of tachypnea is found, a brain MRI may help rule out brain abnormalities (such as tumors) as the cause.
    • Toxicology Screening: There are many drugs, both prescription, over-the-counter, and illegal, that can cause tachypnea. Toxicology screening is often done in emergencies if the cause of the tachypnea is unknown.


  • Treatment options vary depending on the exact cause of the breathing problems.
  • Lung infections:

    • Effective treatments for rapid, shallow breathing caused by infection include an inhaler that opens the airways, such as albuterol, and antibiotics to help clear the infection.
    • Antibiotics are not helpful for some infections, however. In these cases, respiratory treatments open the airways and the infection goes away on its own.

    Chronic conditions:

    • Chronic diseases, including asthma and COPD, do not go away. However, with treatment, you can minimize rapid and shallow breathing. Treatment for these conditions can include prescription drugs, inhalers, and oxygen tanks in extreme cases.
    • ACD is a serious complication of diabetes and is also considered a medical emergency. Hyperventilation because diabetes requires oxygen therapy and electrolytes.

    Anxiety disorders:

  • If you experience rapid, shallow breathing as a symptom of an anxiety attack, your doctor will probably recommend a combination of anti-anxiety medication and medication. These drugs can include:
    • alprazolam (Xanax)
    • clonazepam (Klonopin)
    • buspirone (Buspar)
    • other treatments
  • If you are still breathing rapidly and the above treatments do not work, your doctor may prescribe a beta-blocker medicine to correct your breathing, such as acebutolol, atenolol, and bisoprolol.
  • These drugs treat rapid, shallow breathing by neutralizing the effects of adrenaline, a stress hormone that increases heart rate and breathing.
  • Babies with TTN are treated with oxygen. This requires the use of breathing apparatus.
  • When to visit a Doctor?

  • Seek immediate medical attention if you
    • Experience rapid breathing for the first time
    • Have bluish or grayish skin, nails, lips, or eye area
    • Feel chest pain
    • Develop a fever or cough with phlegm
    • Notice that your symptoms are getting worse

    Home Remedies:

  • Rapid, shallow breathing should not be treated at home and is generally considered a medical emergency. If you have asthma or COPD, use your inhalers as prescribed by your doctor. You may still need to be checked by a health care provider immediately. Your doctor will explain to you when it is important to go to the emergency room.
  • Frequently Asked Questions:

  • It is a great thing that your body and your brain need oxygen to survive and function properly. If you are not breathing efficiently, you are depriving your body of vital oxygen. In addition to oxygen deprivation, if you breathe too fast you lose carbon dioxide, which could put your blood vessels at risk of spasm.
  • Rapid breathing is often strained and constricted, while deep breathing produces relaxation. Now practice diaphragmatic breathing for several minutes. Put a hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Feel your hand rise about an inch each time you breathe in and drop about an inch each time you breathe out.
  • Excessively rapid breathing is called hyperventilation. Shortness of breath is also called dyspnea. Doctors will further classify dyspnea as occurring at rest or associated with activity, exertion, or exercise. They will also want to know if the dyspnea comes on gradually or suddenly.
  • Citations:

  • Tachypnea -