What is it?

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) occurs in babies born early (premature) whose lungs are not fully developed. The earlier the infant is born, the more likely it is for them to have RDS and need extra oxygen and help breathing.

RDS is caused by the baby not having enough surfactant in the lungs. Surfactant is a liquid made in the lungs at about 26 weeks of pregnancy. As the fetus grows, the lungs make more surfactant.

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Respiratory Distress Syndrome in Newborn.

Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Hyaline membrane disease

Signs & symptoms

Babies who have RDS may show these signs:
* Fast breathing very soon after birth
* Grunting ״ugh״ sound with each breath
* Changes in color of lips, fingers and toes
* Widening (flaring) of the nostrils with each breath
* Chest retractions - skin over the breastbone and ribs pulls in during breathing


The diagnosis is made after examining the baby and seeing the results of chest X-rays and blood tests.


Oxygen - Babies with RDS need extra oxygen. It may be given several ways:
* Nasal cannula: A small tube with prongs is placed in the nostrils.
* Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): This machine gently pushes air or oxygen into the lungs to keep the air sacs open.
* Ventilator (for severe RDS): This is a machine that helps the infant breathe when they cannot breathe well enough without help. A breathing tube is put down the infant’s windpipe. This is called intubation (in-too-BAY-shun). The infant is then placed on the ventilator to help them breathe.

Surfactant - Surfactant can be given into the baby’s lungs to replace what they do not have. This is given directly down the breathing tube that was placed in the windpipe.

Intravenous (IV) catheter treatments - A very small tube called a catheter, is placed into one or two of the blood vessels in the umbilical cord. This is how the infant gets IV fluids, nutrition and medicines. It is also used to take blood samples.

Medicines - Sometimes antibiotics are given if an infection is suspected. Calming medicines may be given to help ease pain during treatment.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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