Respiratory rate is the number of breaths taken by a human being per minute. The normal respiratory rate for adults is 12 to 20 breaths per minute. The normal respiratory rate for children varies with age. Respiration is the process of oxygen and carbon dioxide release. You can measure your breathing rate by counting the number of breaths you take during a minute when you are resting. In this article we will know what and how much is the respiratory rate. Also what is the way to measure it-

(Read more - Respiratory failure)

  1. What Is The Respiratory Rate?
  2. How To Measure Respiratory Rate
  3. Causes Of Increased Respiratory Rate
  4. Causes Of Decreased Respiratory Rate
  5. Summary
Doctors for Breathing Easy: Understanding the Importance of Respiratory Rate

When a person breathes, oxygen enters their lungs and travels to the organs. When we exhale, carbon dioxide comes out of the body. A normal respiratory rate regulates the process of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This entire process is controlled by a system called the respiratory drive.

Respiratory rate may vary from person to person. There is a range that doctors consider normal, such as - the normal respiratory rate for healthy adults is between 12 to 20 breaths per minute. At this rate of breathing, carbon dioxide comes out of the lungs at the same rate. A respiratory rate below 12 or above 20 can be a sign of danger. Respiratory drive is divided into three types.

Nervous central control: The nervous central control system determines the ventilation rate and amount of air intake. It tells the pattern of exhalation, inhalation and inhalation.

Sensory Input System: The sensory input system allows the central nervous system to know how much to breathe and at what rate. It also detects chemical changes like irritants.

Muscular system: The muscular system moves the lungs according to signals from other systems. It controls the process of breathing.

There can be many reasons for the respiratory rate to be low or high. Having an abnormal respiratory rate can indicate a variety of things. Sometimes labor and excessive breathing are caused by your activities, such as exercise or walking, this is completely normal.

(Read more - Acute Respiratory Infection)

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Respiratory rate can be measured in three stages, such as –

  • Set time for 1 minute.
  • To measure this, one must rest or sit or lie down.
  • Avoid any vigorous activity before measuring respiratory rate.
  • Start the timer and measure the amount of breaths taken in 1 minute. This can be done by counting how many times your chest rises.

There are some common factors that affect the measured respiratory rate. As -

  • Emotional State
  • Physical Fitness
  • Internal Temperature
  • Diseases and Health Conditions

(Read more - Respiratory Distress Syndrome - myUpchar)

It is normal to breathe more rapidly after physical exertion. However, sometimes fast breathing can lead to a struggle to draw each breath. In some situations the respiratory rate may also decrease. Let us know about the reasons for increase in respiratory rate-

Fever or overheating of the body: When the body becomes overheated, its metabolic process increases and it requires more oxygen. Fast breathing can help the body to get more oxygen. It also helps a person release heat and bring down their body temperature.

Disease or Infection: Respiratory rate can increase due to diseases and infections like sinus, pneumonia and influenza.

Causes of Heart Diseases: Cardiovascular problems are among the major causes of rapid breathing, especially when the symptoms persist for several days. When the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and organs, the body responds by triggering faster and faster breathing to increase the amount of oxygen. In such a situation, heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to meet the oxygen demand of the rest of the body.

Other Causes: Conditions like dehydration, asthma, lung conditions, anxiety, panic attacks, overdose of stimulant medications and prolonged obstruction of the lungs can be responsible for the rapid or increased respiratory rate.

(Read more -Hypoxemia (Low Blood Oxygen))

The following factors may be responsible for this-

Alcohol: Alcohol affects the central nervous system. The more you consume it, the more the respiratory rate keeps decreasing.

Narcotics and Drugs: Narcotics can have a major effect on the central nervous system. Some medications may act as depressants, while others act as stimulants. Its effect can be seen on the entire system, from blood pressure to respiratory rate. Marijuana, hallucinogenic drugs, and opioids are all known to increase or decrease respiratory rate.

(Read more - Shortness of Breath)

Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism can weaken the lung muscles, making breathing difficult. This can slow down your normal respiratory rate.

Brain Injury or Stroke: One of the common complications of brain injury or stroke is dysfunction of the respiratory system. Changes in respiratory rate due to stroke can be mild to severe.

Sleep Apnea: This is a condition in which your breathing pattern is disrupted during sleep. Due to this the respiratory rate starts decreasing.

(Read more - Congestive Heart Failure)

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Respiratory rate is different from person to person. It varies from children to adults. Generally 12 to 20 breaths per minute are considered standard. You can easily count your breathing by setting a timer for 1 minute. If you have difficulty breathing, you should consult a doctor and get it treated properly. Fast, labored breathing can be a medical condition, although its severity can vary. If you are breathing rapidly or not breathing properly, contact the doctor immediately.

Dr Viresh Mariholannanavar

Dr Viresh Mariholannanavar

2 Years of Experience

Dr Shubham Mishra

Dr Shubham Mishra

1 Years of Experience

Dr. Deepak Kumar

Dr. Deepak Kumar

10 Years of Experience

Dr. Sandeep Katiyar

Dr. Sandeep Katiyar

13 Years of Experience

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