Newborn Breathing Conditions
Newborn Breathing Conditions

Newborn Breathing Conditions Treatment

Treatment for newborns with breathing conditions usually begins as soon as a baby is born. Most newborns who show symptoms of a breathing condition are quickly moved to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). There, they receive around-the-clock care from healthcare professionals who specialize in treating premature newborns. Treatments will depend on the type of breathing condition but can include any of the following.

Breathing support

Breathing support, such as oxygen therapy, is used to help newborns breathe until their lungs can make enough surfactant on their own. Many babies receive breathing support from a nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) device that gently pushes air into the lungs through prongs placed in their nostrils.

In serious cases, nCPAP is unable to support breathing. When this happens, a mechanical ventilator can help your baby breathe. A ventilator is a machine that takes over the work of breathing and is a form of life support. The machine connects to a breathing tube that runs through a newborn’s mouth or nose and into the windpipe. Babies that require ventilation are more likely to develop bronchopulmonary dysplasia. They may also develop complications from the breathing tube or ventilator, such as an airway or lung injury.

Other supportive treatments

Besides breathing support, your child may need one or more of the following treatments.

  • Surfactant replacement therapy can be used if a newborn struggles to breathe despite the use of nCPAP. Sometimes, giving an infant surfactant requires the use of a breathing tube. If so, because of the possible complications, your baby’s provider will help you consider the risks and benefits of the procedure.
  • Antibiotics can help treat breathing problems that are caused by a bacterial infection, like pneumonia.
  • Caffeine treatment is still being studied, but for many infants, it reduces the need for mechanical ventilation and lowers the risk of bronchopulmonary dysplasia, especially in newborns who have apnea.
  • Fluids and nutrients can help prevent malnutrition and promote growth. Nutrition is critical to the growth and development of the lungs.

Research for your health

NHLBI-supported research focuses on preventing breathing problems in newborns. Some of the research aims to identify which babies are at risk for serious illness. Other research underway is testing whether inhaled vitamin A can help prevent breathing problems by reducing lung damage and improving lung development.

Find a clinical trial on newborn breathing conditions.

We lead or sponsor studies to find new ways to prevent or treat newborn breathing conditions. See if your child is eligible to join.

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