Chest, Lungs & Breathing

Find out about a range of conditions which affect the lungs, chest and breathing - read about the symptoms, causes, treatment and when to seek help. 

Image of child showing respiratory system

Illustration by Dr Greta File. Property of KidsHealth. 

Asthma is a condition that leads to narrowing of the airways of the lungs. Symptoms include wheeze, cough and difficulty breathing.

If a premature baby has apnoea of prematurity, it means they stop breathing at times for 15 to 20 seconds. 

Bronchiectasis is a chest disease. The airways in the lungs have become damaged and scarred. Once a person has bronchiectasis, they usually have it for life. Good treatment stops it getting worse and in very young children, can reverse some of the disease.

School is really important for children with bronchiectasis. Teachers can make a significant difference.

Children and young people with bronchiectasis can have an action plan. You and your doctor or another member of your child's health team can discuss this so that it's right for your child. It lists your child's daily treatment and steps to take if your child becomes unwell. 

Bronchiolitis is a chest condition that causes breathing problems in pēpi (babies). It's caused by a virus. Bronchiolitis is very easy to catch so wash your hands before and after handling your baby.

Colds are common in tamariki (children). They are caused by viruses that spread easily through coughing and sneezing. Learn more about common cold symptoms and how to manage them.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea.

Coughing is common in children, especially when they are preschool age. A cough that lasts longer than 4 weeks is not normal and may be a sign of more serious disease.

If your child has a bad cough, it’s important to recognise it early. A long lasting wet cough can lead to the development of lung diseases such as bronchiectasis.

Croup is a viral illness in young tamariki (children) which causes narrowing of the upper airways. Croup is often a mild illness but can quickly become serious, so don't hesitate to get medical help.

Flexible bronchoscopy helps doctors diagnose and manage medical conditions that affect the airways. Find out more about what a bronchoscopy involves.

Some pēpi (babies) will need home oxygen to help with their breathing.

Keeping your whānau (family) healthy over winter means keeping your home warm and dry. Check out all the tips in the videos about how to keep your home warm and dry. Find out what support is available.

An oximetry test measures the amount of oxygen in the blood and can be used to assess your child's breathing during sleep. 

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It causes cough, fever and problems with breathing. Most children make a complete recovery from pneumonia.

Polysomnography (PSG) is a special type of sleep test which provides the most detailed information about breathing problems during sleep.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a very common virus in the winter and spring months in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is one of many viruses that cause infections of the respiratory tract - the parts of the body related to breathing. 

Watch the videos and know the signs and the different noises babies and children can make when they are having trouble breathing. That way you can act fast and get help.

Neuromuscular conditions are disorders of the nerves that control the body and muscles. Neuromuscular weakness can affect different muscle groups necessary for breathing. Even when there is no cure for a neuromuscular condition, there are ways to help manage breathing problems that may improve your child's health.

Snoring or noisy breathing during sleep may be a sign that your child is having difficulty breathing. The medical name for this is obstructive sleep apnoea.

Viral wheeze is an infection of the lungs which starts with a cough or cold. It's more common in children under the age of 3 years as their airways are smaller. Viral wheeze can also be called preschool wheeze, episodic wheeze, or viral-induced wheeze.

Whooping cough can make pēpi very sick and some pēpi can die. Having whooping cough immunisation in pregnancy protects pēpi in their first weeks of life. Start immunising pēpi the day they turn 6 weeks old to keep protecting them.

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