Diseases & Conditions


RDSCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatment

What is RDS (Respiratory Distress Syndrome)?

RDS is a disease that occurs mainly in children who are born prematurely. Such children have great difficulty in breathing and if it is not treated properly, can lead to a lot of complications for the child like infection of the blood stream and bleeding in the brain. In a few extreme cases, this can lead to convulsions and death.

Causes of RDS

RDS occurs in children born prematurely since their lungs have not developed sufficiently enough. Improperly developed lungs do not have sufficient levels of surfactant, a foamy liquid that is very essential for the air sacs in the lungs so that it can expand and take in the air. If the lungs do not have sufficient levels of surfactant, the lungs will not be able to expand and the child will have difficult time breathing.

Medication for RDS

Though there is no specific drug therapy prescribed for RDS, using a breathing machine may be required to improve the flow of oxygen into the lungs and at the same time make sure that the air sacs do not collapse. Before using any drugs consult your doctor for advice. Based on the needs of the child, the doctor may prescribe an OTC drug or a prescription drug. Some of the drugs used in cases of RDS in children include: Survanta, Beractant, Calfactant, Poractant, Infasurf and Curosurf.

Prevention of RDS

One of the first steps to be taken is to reduce the chances of giving birth to a premature baby. Take good prenatal care as early as possible during pregnancy. Likewise, ensure that you have a very healthy diet and take the required vitamins as prescribed by your doctor. Avoid smoking or use of alcohol during the pregnancy stage. Further, avoid using medications not prescribed by your doctor. In case, there is a high risk of delivering a premature baby, then you may be given steroids prior to delivery in order to ensure the baby’s lungs develop. Post delivery if the baby has a high chance of contracting Respiratory Distress Syndrome, surfactant may be given to help the baby breathe easy.

Risk Factors for RDS

A risk factor refers to something that actually increases the chances of either contracting a disease or get afflicted with a medical condition. Some of the risk factors for Respiratory Distress Syndrome include:

  • If the birth of the child is within 37 weeks, then the chances of this disease is very high
  • Cesarean Section Delivery
  • Asphyxia
  • Multiple birth
  • Cold stress
  • Previously affected child
  • Mother with insulin dependent diabetes

Symptoms of RDS

The following symptoms are visible either immediately or within a few hours after birth of the child. These include:

  • Difficulty in breathing, apnea
  • Rapid or shallow breathing
  • Grunting noise with every breath
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Delayed or weak cry
  • Frothing at the lips
  • Reduced urine output
  • Blue color around the lips and nail beds
  • Swelling of the extremities

Treatment for RDS

The normal treatment for babies with RDS includes oxygen. However, the treatment may also include using a mechanical respirator to ensure that the air sacs do not collapse and at the same time ensure more oxygen flow into the lungs. This treatment method helps the child breathe better and at the same time is used in cases of severe Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

Surfactant treatment is another option to treat the new born child. Under this treatment, surfactant is given to assist the air sacs to expand and take in oxygen. As the surfactant begins to take effect, using a respirator can be reduced gradually. In certain cases the doctor may opt for inhaled Nitric Oxide which may be used for improving the oxygen levels.