My Toddler Keeps Taking Deep Breaths! Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Sometimes, children take shallow breaths for some time, after which the brain sends a signal for the child to take a deep breath to compensate so that the lungs are fully oxygenated. More often than not, this is nothing to worry about and is completely normal, but if your child seems to have difficulty in breathing or has skin reactions like hives along with deep breathing, then take her to your pediatrician immediately.

From the day your child is born, we question everything they do, especially if we’re first-time parents. Parents sometimes overthink a lot, from worrying about their baby achieving their milestones to whether they seem to have bent legs while walking.

I remember when my son was around 8 weeks, and he slept through the night without waking up once to feed, and this sent me into a panic mode because a child who used to wake up every 2 hours to feed hasn’t woken up once during the night.

I remember how I woke up every 15 minutes and placed my hand on his chest to check whether he was breathing properly.

Similarly, one deep breath taken from our toddler at an odd time can make us think why this 18-months-old child who was playing around usually suddenly took a deep breath.

“Is everything alright?”, “Is he having any trouble breathing?” will be the questions we’ll be asking ourselves, and then we watch them like a hawk for the next few minutes to check whether they’re alright or not.

Why does my toddler sometimes take deep breaths?

The deep breaths your toddler takes occasionally might be them ‘sighing.’ Like adults, sometimes children too sigh a lot.

Sighing is a type of a deep breath, where you take a breath and take another breath before you exhale. For example, adults often sigh when they’re sad, exhausted, or as a relief. ‘Sighing’ for us is often associated with emotions, but that’s not necessarily the same case with children.

When a toddler sighs, it’s often out of tiredness or boredom. I have seen my nephew sighing more when he’s bored and has nothing to do. I have also seen him sighing, but playfully, when he wants something but was denied before.

There are also times when children often have periods where they take shallow breaths, and to make sure their lungs are oxygenated, the brain sends a signal to take a deep breath.

Overall, sighing can sometimes be considered normal, but if your child is excessively sighing or taking deep breaths, that indicates an underlying problem.

When an adult or a child takes long, deep breaths more frequently, it can be due to respiratory conditions like asthma, extreme anxiety, or psychological stress.

What is sighing dyspnoea?

In sighing dyspnoea, children often take long, deep breaths and feel that they cannot get enough air to breathe with normal breathing. As a result, the inhalation act is often exaggerated and can be shuddering in nature instead of a smooth movement.

A clinical study done in children aged 8 – 15 years with sighing dyspnoea found reasons other than medical conditions for frequent deep breaths like a change of residence, academic stress, traumatic past, and anxiety.

They also noticed a 50% reduction of these “sighing spells” after the children were given standard treatment of reassurance, breathing exercises, relaxation therapy, and addressing the triggering factors in each child.


When should I start worrying about my child’s breathing?

If your child is less than 1 year old and takes more than 60 breaths a minute, or if your child is aged between 1-5 and takes more than 40 breaths a minute, then call 911 immediately.

How can I help my toddler breathe better?

If your toddler has congestion, then you can use a humidifier or a bulb suction device to clear your child’s nose gently.

A steamy room can also help loosen up the mucus and help your child to breathe better. Offer lots of warm fluids to your little one to decongest them.

How do you know if your child has anxiety?

You might notice signs like your child being scared or upset; they might refuse to talk to or do things, they might cling too much, or cry. If you notice most of these signs, try talking to your child and making them feel safe.

You can also consult with a child psychologist to help your child overcome this phase.


It’s best to consult your pediatrician if your little one seems to take deep breaths frequently, and if you find your little one having trouble breathing, then take him to emergency immediately.

For children above the age of 5, please get multiple opinions so that you come to know about whether there’s any triggering factor like stress or anxiety that causes them to take in deep breaths frequently.

But, usually, toddlers taking a deep breath once in a while is nothing to worry about, and you can be in peace knowing that sometimes children do a lot of things out of boredom. So unless it’s not something they’re doing very frequently, it’s normal.

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Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid,  you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best'.

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