Respiratory Failure
Respiratory Failure

Respiratory Failure Symptoms

Symptoms of respiratory failure depend on its cause, the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood, and whether respiratory failure developed slowly over time or suddenly. Acute respiratory failure can be a life-threatening emergency.

Low oxygen levels in your blood can cause:

  • Difficulty with routine activities such as dressing, taking a shower, and climbing stairs, due to extreme tiredness
  • Shortness of breath or feeling like you cannot get enough air (called air hunger)
  • Drowsiness
  • A bluish color on your fingers, toes, and lips

High carbon dioxide levels in your blood can cause:

  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Rapid breathing

You can have symptoms of low oxygen and high carbon dioxide at the same time. Some people who have respiratory failure become extremely sleepy or lose consciousness if their brain does not get enough oxygen or if carbon dioxide levels are very high.

Symptoms of respiratory failure in newborns include rapid breathing, grunting, widening of the nostrils with each breath, a bluish tone to the skin and lips, and a pulling inward of the muscles between the ribs while breathing. 

Respiratory failure may cause damage to the lungs and other organs including the brain and kidneys, so it is important to get treated quickly

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