Know the signs of breathing difficulty

The ‘Great Mask Debate’ is upon us. Wearing, or not wearing, a mask is now a political statement. And all I want to do is shout JUST WEAR THE MASK! But I won’t, this post is dedicated to the people who claim that wearing a mask interferes with their perfect breathing systems. Today I am going to ‘teach’ you to know the signs of breathing difficulty. Because if you don’t wear the mask, you or a loved one may end up catching Covid19. And breathing difficulty is one of the more serious symptoms.

These Memes Remind You To Wear A Face Mask - StayHipp

What do you know about breathing difficulty? You’re not a doctor!

Yup, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a medical profession of any sort and I would never claim to be. You should always seek medical advice when you have concerns, I’m just sharing a piece of critical information that I received over 7.5 years ago that could save a life.

7.5 years ago, baby W was born at 28 weeks gestation. He was resuscitated, intubated and incubated almost immediately. When it was time to take him home from the NICU, I had to do a crash course in baby first aid, on what was a laughably large baby CPR doll. What I learned came in handy as I soon discovered W had a penchant for rapid deterioration after catching a virus, resulting in breathing difficulties and many trips to A&E. He got a reputation for being my ‘poorly/sick’ child as he was extremely vulnerable to any viral infection.

W, intubated & incubated (1 day old)

Knowing the signs

Fast forward a few years to 2016, and we were sat in A&E again waiting for some bloods. W had picked up a virus when visiting my mum in hospital. After a few hours of observation we were sent home and my mum lost her battle with cancer 24 hours later. It had been less than 2 weeks since mum has passed away and B was inconsolable. He had been very attached to her and at 1 years old, didn’t really seem to understand that she wasn’t coming back.

He was a little warm, but it was summer. The thermometer showed a normal temperature. I checked for rashes and his skin was clear. He had been crying since morning and it was now bedtime. I wasn’t convinced he was just having a grumpy day.

Suddenly, I remembered the signs of breathing difficulty and I checked him over. Sure enough, he was struggling. I called the ambulance and while we waited he stopped breathing. It was terrifying, we jumped into the ambulance and he was blue lighted to the children’s hospital. He had pneumonia and was hospitalised for 3 days. They told me how lucky we were that I hadn’t waited until the morning, he probably wouldn’t have made it. But, I know that I wouldn’t have called the ambulance if I hadn’t checked for the signs of breathing difficulty. And I wouldn’t have checked for them if I didn’t know what they were.

B waiting for his transfer to an isolation room.

Know the signs:

  • Retractions: this was the major sign for me. I’ve included a video below to show exactly what it looks like. I can only describe as their skin being almost sucked in as they strain to get enough oxygen. You can clearly see the muscles around their ribs and neck working hard.
  • Colour changes: while we were waiting for the ambulance B started looking blue around the month and his skin turned grey.
  • Breathing rate: he was taking short rapid breaths, that had increased in frequency compared to normal breathing rate.

You can find more signs listed here.

Of course, I would prefer everybody wore a mask to help protect people like my children or my mum. As a result of W’s prematurity and B’s pneumonia, they both suffer a bit more with common viruses than other children their age. We were on first name basis with most of the staff at our local A&E, and they’ve been put on oxygen more times than I can count. Pneumonia is one of the most serious side effects of Covid19, which is why I wanted to share our experience with you today. I hope you find the information above and below useful. Stay safe!

Useful Links:

Learn First Aid for Babies and Children with the British Red Cross.

This educational video showing respiratory distress in an infant.

NHS 111, if you have any concerns about somebody aged 5 or older.

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