19 Nursing Care of the Child With a Respiratory Disorder chapter

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Alexander Roberts
Alexander Roberts

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Enoch J. Mills
Enoch J. Mills

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Nursing Care of the Child With a
Respiratory Disorder
pulse oximetry
subglottic stenosis
work of breathing
Upon completion of the chapter the learner will be able to:
1. Compare how the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system in
children differs from that of adults.
2. Identify various factors associated with respiratory illness in infants and
3. Discuss common laboratory and other diagnostic tests useful in the
diagnosis of respiratory conditions.
4. Discuss common medications and other treatments used for treatment
and palliation of respiratory conditions.
5. Recognize risk factors associated with various respiratory disorders.
6. Distinguish different respiratory illnesses based on the signs and
symptoms associated with them.
7. Discuss nursing interventions commonly used for respiratory illnesses.
8. Devise an individualized nursing care plan for the child with a
respiratory disorder.
9. Develop patient/family teaching plans for the child with a respiratory
10. Describe the psychosocial impact of chronic respiratory disorders on
Restoring a full breath allows a child to participate fully in life’s adventures.
Alexander Roberts, 4 months old, is brought to the clinic by his mother. He presents with a cold and has
been coughing a great deal for 2 days. Today he has had difficulty taking the bottle and is breathing very
quickly. Mrs. Roberts says he seems tired.
espiratory disorders are the
most common causes of illness and hospitalization in
children. These illnesses range from mild, non-acute disorders (such as the common cold or sore throat), to acute
disorders (such as bronchiolitis), to chronic conditions
(such as asthma), to serious life-threatening conditions
(such as epiglottitis). Chronic disorders, such as allergic
rhinitis, can affect quality of life, but frequent acute or
recurrent infections also can interfere significantly with
quality of life for some children.
Respiratory infections account for the majority of
acute illness in children. The child’s age and living conditions and the season of the year can influence the etiology of respiratory disorders as well as the course of
illness. For example, younger children and infants are
more likely to deteriorate quickly. Lower socioeconomic
status places children at higher risk for increased severity or increased frequency of disease. Certain viruses are
more prevalent in the winter, whereas allergen-related
respiratory diseases are more prevalent in the spring and
fall. Children with chronic illness such as diabetes, congenital heart disease, sickle cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis and children with developmental disorders such as
cerebral palsy tend to be more severely affected with respiratory disorders. Parents might have difficulty in
determining the severity of their child’s condition and
might either seek care very early in the course of the illness (when it is still very mild) or wait and present to the
health care setting when the child is very ill.
Nurses must be familiar with respiratory conditions
affecting children in order to provide guidance and support to families. When children become ill, families often
encounter nurses in outpatient settings first. Nurses must
be able to ask questions that can help determine the severity of the child’s illness and determine whether they must
seek care at a health facility. Since respiratory illness
accounts for the majority of pediatric admissions to general hospitals, nurses caring for children require expert
assessment and intervention skills in this area. Detection
of worsening respiratory status early in the course of deterioration allows for timely treatment and the possibility
of preventing a minor problem from becoming a critical
illness. Difficulty with breathing can be very frightening
for both the child and parents. The child and the family
need the nurse’s support throughout the course of a respiratory illness.
Nurses are also in the unique position of being able
to have a significant impact upon the burden of respiratory illness in children by the appropriate identification
of, education about, and encouragement of prevention of
respiratory illnesses. See Healthy People 2010.
Variations in Pediatric
Anatomy and Physiology
Respiratory conditions often affect both the upper and
lower respiratory tract, though some affect primarily one
or the other. Respiratory dysfunction in children tends to
be more severe than in adults. Several differences in the
infant’s or child’s respiratory system account for the
increased severity of these diseases in children compared
with adults.
Newborns are obligatory nose breathers until at least
4 weeks of age. The young infant cannot automatically
open his or her mouth to breathe if the nose is obstructed.
The nares must be patent for breathing to be successful
while feeding. Newborns breathe through their mouths
only while crying.
The upper respiratory mucus serves as a cleansing
agent, yet newborns produce very little mucus, making
them more susceptible to infection. However, the newborn
and young infant may have very small nasal passages, so
when excess mucus is present, airway obstruction is more
Infants are born with maxillary and ethmoid sinuses
present. The frontal sinuses (most often associated with
sinus infection) and the sphenoid sinuses develop by age
6 to 8 years, so younger children are less apt to acquire
sinus infections than are adults.
The tongue of the infant relative to the oropharynx is larger
than in adults. Posterior displacement of the tongue can
quickly lead to severe airway obstruction. Through early
school age, children tend to have enlarged tonsillar and
Reduce hospitalization
rates for three ambulatorycare-sensitive conditions:
pediatric asthma and
pneumonia and influenza.
• Appropriately educate
children with asthma
and their families about
the ongoing management of asthma.
• Encourage pneumococcal and influenza
vaccinations per recommendations.
adenoidal tissue even in the absence of illness. This can
contribute to an increased incidence of airway obstruction.
The airway lumen is smaller in infants and children than
in adults. The infant’s trachea is approximately 4 mm
wide compared with the adult width of 20 mm. When
edema, mucus, or bronchospasm is present, the capacity
for air passage is greatly diminished. A small reduction in
the diameter of the pediatric airway can significantly
increase resistance to airflow, leading to increased work
of breathing (Fig. 19.1).
In teenagers and adults the larynx is cylindrical and
fairly uniform in width. In infants and children less than
10 years old, the cricoid cartilage is underdeveloped,
resulting in laryngeal narrowing. Thus, in infants and
children, the larynx is funnel-shaped. When any portion
of the airway is narrowed, further narrowing from mucus
or edema will result in an exponential increase in resistance to airflow and work of breathing. In infants and
children, the larynx and glottis are placed higher in the
neck, increasing the chance of aspiration of foreign material into the lower airways. Congenital laryngomalacia
occurs in some infants and results in the laryngeal structure being weaker than normal, yielding greater collapse
on inspiration. Box 19.1 gives details related to congenital laryngomalacia.
The child’s airway is highly compliant, making it
quite susceptible to dynamic collapse in the presence of
airway obstruction. The muscles supporting the airway
are less functional than those in the adult. Children
1 mm
2 mm
4 mm
2 mm
1 mm circumferential edema causes 50% reduction
of diameter and radius, increasing pulmonary resistance by a factor
of 16.
5 mm
10 mm
4 mm
8 mm
1 mm circumferential edema causes 20% reduction
of diameter and radius, increasing pulmonary resistance by a factor
of 2.4.
● Figure 19.1 (A) Note the smaller diameter of the child’s
airway under normal circumstances. (B) With 1 cm of
edema present, note the exponential decrease in airway
lumen diameter as compared with the adult.
BOX 19.1
• Inspiratory stridor is present and is intensified with
certain positions.
• Suprasternal retractions may be present, but the infant
exhibits no other signs of respiratory distress.
• Congenital laryngomalacia is generally a benign condition that improves as the cartilage in the larynx
matures. It usually disappears by age 1 year.
• The crowing noise heard with breathing can make
parents very anxious. Reassure parents that the condition will improve with time.
• Parents become very familiar with the “normal” sound
their infant makes and are often able to identify intensification or change in the stridor. Airway obstruction
may occur earlier in infants with this condition, so
intensification of stridor or symptoms of respiratory
illness should be evaluated early by the primary care
have a large amount of soft tissue surrounding the trachea, and the mucous membranes lining the airway
are less securely attached compared with adults. This
increases the risk for airway edema and obstruction.
Upper airway obstruction resulting from a foreign body,
croup, or epiglottitis can result in tracheal collapse during inspiration.
Lower Respiratory Structures
The bifurcation of the trachea occurs at the level of the
third thoracic vertebra in children, compared to the level
of the sixth thoracic vertebra in adults. This anatomic difference is important when suctioning children and when
endotracheal intubation is required (see Chapter 32 for
further discussion). This difference in placement also
contributes to risk for aspiration. The bronchi and bronchioles of infants and children are also narrower in diameter than the adult’s, placing them at increased risk for
lower airway obstruction (see Fig. 19.1). Lower airway
obstruction during exhalation often results from bronchiolitis or asthma or is caused by foreign body aspiration
into the lower airway.
Alveoli develop at approximately 24 weeks’ gestation.
Term infants are born with about 50 million alveoli. After
birth, alveolar growth slows until 3 months of age and then
progresses until the child reaches 7 or 8 years of age, at
which time the alveoli reach the adult number of around
300 million. Alveoli make up most of the lung tissue and
are the major sites for gas exchange. Oxygen moves from
the alveolar air to the blood, while carbon dioxide moves
from the blood into the alveolar air. Smaller numbers of
alveoli, particularly in the premature and/or young infant,
place the child at a higher risk of hypoxemia and carbon
dioxide retention.
Chest Wall
In older children and adults the ribs and sternum support
the lungs and help keep them well expanded. The movement of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles alters volume and pressure within the chest cavity, resulting in air
movement into the lungs. Infants’ chest walls are highly
compliant (pliable) and fail to support the lungs adequately. Functional residual capacity can be greatly
reduced if respiratory effort is diminished. This lack of
lung support also makes the tidal volume of infants and
toddlers almost completely dependent upon movement
of the diaphragm. If diaphragm movement is impaired
(as in states of hyperinflation such as asthma), the intercostal muscles cannot lift the chest wall and respiration is
further compromised.
Metabolic Rate and Oxygen Need
Children have a significantly higher metabolic rate than
adults. Their resting respiratory rates are faster and their
demand for oxygen is higher. Adult oxygen consumption
is 3 to 4 liters per minute, while infants consume 6 to
8 liters per minute. In any situation of respiratory distress, infants and children will develop hypoxemia more
rapidly than adults. This may be attributed not only to
the child’s increased oxygen requirement but also to the
effect that certain conditions have on the oxyhemoglobin
dissociation curve.
Normal oxygen transport relies upon binding of oxygen to hemoglobin in areas of high pO2 (pulmonary arterial beds) and release of oxygen from hemoglobin when the
pO2 is low (peripheral tissues). Normally, a pO2 of 95 mm
Hg results in an oxygen saturation of 97%. A decrease in
oxygen saturation results in a disproportionate (much
larger) decrease in pO2 (Fig. 19.2). Thus, a small decrease
in oxygen saturation is reflective of a larger decrease in
pO2. Conditions such as alkalosis, hypothermia, hypocarbia, anemia, and fetal hemoglobin cause oxygen to
become more tightly bound to hemoglobin, resulting in
the curve shifting to the left. Conditions common to pediatric respiratory disorders such as acidosis, hyperthermia,
and hypercarbia cause hemoglobin to decrease its affinity
for oxygen, further shifting the curve to the right.
Common Medical Treatments
A variety of interventions are used to treat respiratory
illness in children. The treatments listed in Common
Medical Treatments 19.1 and Drug Guide 19.1 usually
require a physician’s order when a child is hospitalized.
Nursing Process Overview
for the Child with a
Respiratory Disorder
Care of the child with a respiratory disorder includes
assessment, nursing diagnosis, planning, interventions,
and evaluation. There are a number of general concepts
related to the nursing process that can be applied to respiratory disorders. From a general understanding of the care
involved for a child with respiratory dysfunction, the nurse
can then individualize the care based on client specifics.
Assessment of respiratory dysfunction in children includes
health history, physical examination, and laboratory or
diagnostic testing.
Remember Alexander, the 4-month-old with the cold,
cough, fatigue, feeding difficulty, and fast breathing?
What additional health history and physical examination
assessment information should the nurse obtain?
% Oxygen Saturation
30 40 50 60 70
Blood PaO2 (mm Hg)
● Figure 19.2 Normal hemoglobin dissociation curve
( green), shift to the right (red ), and shift to the left (black).
Health History
The health history comprises past medical history, family
history, history of present illness (when the symptoms
started and how they have progressed) as well as treatments used at home. The past medical history might be
significant for recurrent colds or sore throats, atopy (such
as asthma or atopic dermatitis), prematurity, respiratory
dysfunction at birth, poor weight gain, or history of recurrent respiratory illnesses or chronic lung disease. Family
history might be significant for chronic respiratory disorders such as asthma or might reveal contacts for infectious
exposure. When eliciting the history of the present illness,
inquire about onset and progression, fever, nasal congestion, noisy breathing, presence and description of cough,
(text continues on page 000)
Common Medical Treatments 19.1 Respiratory Disorders
Nursing Implications
Supplemented via mask,
nasal cannula, hood, or
tent or via endotracheal
or nasotracheal tube
respiratory distress
Monitor response via work of
breathing and pulse
High humidity
Addition of moisture to
inspired air
Common cold, croup,
Infant may require extra
blankets with cool mist,
and frequent changes of
bedclothes under oxygen
hood or tent as they
become damp.
Removal of secretions via
bulb syringe or suction
Excessive airway
(common cold, flu,
Should be done carefully
and only as far as
recommended for age or
tracheostomy tube size, or
until cough or gag occurs
Chest physiotherapy
(CPT) and postural
Promotes mucus clearance
by mobilizing secretions
with the assistance of
percussion or vibration
accompanied by
postural drainage (see
Chapter 14 for more
information about CPT
and postural drainage)
Bronchiolitis, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, or
other conditions
resulting in
increased mucus
production. Not
effective in inflammatory conditions
without increased
May be performed by
respiratory therapist in
some institutions, by nurses
in others. In either case,
nurses must be familiar
with the technique and
able to educate families
on its use.
Saline gargles
Relieves throat pain via salt
water gargle
Pharyngitis, tonsillitis
Recommended for children
old enough to understand
the concept of gargling
(to avoid choking)
Saline lavage
Normal saline introduced
into the airway, followed
by suctioning
Common cold, flu,
bronchiolitis, any
condition resulting
in increased mucus
production in the
upper airway
Very helpful for loosening
thick mucus; child may
need to be in semi-upright
position to avoid
Chest tube
Insertion of a drainage tube
into the pleural cavity to
facilitate removal of air or
fluid and allow full lung
Should tube become
dislodged from container,
the chest tube must be
clamped immediately to
avoid further air entry in
to the chest cavity.
Introduction of a
bronchoscope into the
bronchial tree for diagnostic purposes. Also
allows for bronchiolar
Removal of foreign
body, cleansing of
bronchial tree
Watch for postprocedure
airway swelling,
complaints of sore throat.
Drug Guide 19.1 Common Drugs for Respiratory Disorders
Nursing Implications
Reduces viscosity of
thickened secretions by
increasing respiratory
tract fluid
Common cold, pneumonia,
other conditions
requiring mobilization
and subsequent
expectoration of mucus
Encourage deep breathing
before coughing in order
to mobilize secretions.
Maintain adequate fluid
Assess breath sounds
Cough suppressants
Relieves irritating, nonproductive cough by
direct effect on the
cough center in the
medulla, which suppresses the cough reflex
Common cold, sinusitis,
pneumonia, bronchitis
Should be used only with
nonproductive coughs
in the absence of
Treatment of allergic
Allergic rhinitis, asthma
May cause drowsiness or
dry mouth
Antibiotics (oral,
Treatment of bacterial
infections of the
respiratory tract
Pharyngitis, tonsillitis,
sinusitis, bacterial
pneumonia, cystic
fibrosis, empyema,
abscess, tuberculosis
Check for antibiotic
allergies. Should be
given as prescribed for
the length of time
Antibiotics (inhaled)
Treatment of bacterial
infections of the
respiratory tract
Used in cystic fibrosis
Can be given via nebulizer
Beta2 adrenergic
(i.e., albuterol,
May be administered
orally or via inhalation.
Relax airway smooth
muscle, resulting in
Inhaled agents result in
fewer systemic side
Acute and chronic treatment of wheezing and
bronchospasm in
asthma, bronchiolitis,
cystic fibrosis, chronic
lung disease.
Prevention of wheezing in
Can be used for acute
relief of bronchospasm.
May cause nervousness,
tachycardia and
Beta2 adrenergic
(i.e., salmeterol)
Administered via
Long-acting bronchodilator
does not produce an
acute effect so should
not be used for an
asthma attack.
Long-term control in
chronic asthma.
Prevention of exerciseinduced asthma.
Used only for long-term
control or for exerciseinduced asthma. Not for
relief of bronchospasm
in an acute wheezing
Racemic epinephrine
Produces bronchodilation
Assess lung sounds and
work of breathing.
Observe for rebound
Administered via inhalation to produce
bronchodilation without
systemic effects
Chronic or acute treatment of wheezing in
asthma and chronic
lung disease
In children, generally used
as an adjunct to beta2
adrenergic agonists
for treatment of
Drug Guide 19.1 Common Drugs for Respiratory Disorders (continued)
Nursing Implications
Antiviral agents
Treatment and prevention
of influenza A
Influenza A
Amantadine, rimantidine:
Monitor for confusion,
nervousness, and
Zanamivir, oseltamivir: Well
tolerated but expensive
Virazole (Ribavirin)
Treatment of severe lower
respiratory tract
infection with RSV
Usually reserved for treatment of RSV in the
ventilated client. Has not
been shown to significantly reduce length of
stay, morbidity, or
Administer via aerosol with
the small-particle
aerosol generator
(SPAG). Suction patients
on assisted ventilation
every 2 hours; monitor
pulmonary pressures
every 2 to 4 hours. May
cause blurred vision and
Exert a potent, locally
acting anti-inflammatory
effect to decrease the
frequency and severity
of asthma attacks. May
also delay pulmonary
damage that occurs
with chronic asthma.
Maintenance program for
asthma, chronic lung
disease. Acute treatment
of croup syndromes.
Not for treatment of acute
wheezing. Rinse mouth
after inhalation to
decrease incidence of
fungal infections, dry
mouth, and hoarseness.
Minimal systemic absorption makes inhaled
steroids the treatment of
choice for asthma
maintenance program.
Corticosteroids (oral,
Suppress inflammation
and normal immune
response. Very effective,
but long-term or chronic
use can result in peptic
ulceration, altered
growth, and numerous
other side effects.
Treatment of acute exacerbations of asthma or
wheezing with chronic
lung disease. Acute
treatment of severe
May cause hyperglycemia.
May suppress reaction
to allergy tests. Consult
physician if vaccinations
are ordered during
course of systemic
corticosteroid therapy.
Short courses of therapy
are generally safe.
Children on long-term
dosing should have
growth assessed.
Decongestants (e.g.,
Treatment of runny or
stuffy nose
Common cold, limited but
possible usefulness in
sinusitis and allergic rhinitis
Assess child periodically for
nasal congestion. Some
children react to
decongestants with
excessive sleepiness or
increased activity.
Leukotriene receptor
zafirlukast, zileuton)
Decrease inflammatory
response by antagonizing the effects of
leukotrienes (which
mediate the effects of
airway edema, smooth
muscle constriction,
altered cellular activity)
Long-term control of
asthma in children age
1 year and older.
Montelukast: for allergic
rhinitis in children
6 months and older.
Given once daily, in the
evening. Not for relief of
bronchospasm during
an acute wheezing
episode, but may be
continued during the
Drug Guide 19.1 Common Drugs for Respiratory Disorders (continued)
Nursing Implications
Mast-cell stabilizers
Administered via inhalation.
Prevent release of
histamine from sensitized
mast cells, resulting in
decreased frequency
and intensity of allergic
Maintenance program for
asthma and chronic
lung disease, preexposure treatment
for allergens
For prophylactic use, not to
relieve bronchospasm
during an acute wheezing episode. Can be
used 10 to 15 minutes
prior to exposure to
allergen, to decrease
reaction to allergen.
Administered orally or
To provide for continuous
airway relaxation.
Sustained-release oral
preparation can be
used to prevent
nocturnal symptoms.
Requires serum level
Used late in the course of
treatment for moderate
or severe asthma in
order to achieve longterm control. Also
indicated for apnea of
prematurity (see
Monitor drug levels routinely.
Report signs of toxicity
immediately: tachycardia, nausea, vomiting,
diarrhea, stomach
cramps, anorexia,
confusion, headache,
restlessness, flushing,
increased urination,
seizures, arrhythmias,
Stimulates the respiratory
Apnea of prematurity
See “Methylxanthines.”
Pulmozyme (dornase
Enzyme that hydrolyzes
the DNA in sputum,
reducing sputum
Cystic fibrosis
Monitor for dysphonia and
Synagis (palivizumab)
Monoclonal antibody
used to prevent serious
lower respiratory RSV
For certain high-risk groups
of children
Should be administered
monthly during the RSV
season. Given
intramuscularly only.
rapid respirations, increased work of breathing, ear, nose,
sinus, or throat pain, ear pulling, headache, vomiting with
coughing, poor feeding, and lethargy. Also inquire about
exposure to second-hand smoke. Children exposed to
environmental smoke have an increased incidence of respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia (Sheahan & Free, 2005). See Healthy People 2010.
Reduce the proportion of
children who are regularly
exposed to tobacco
smoke at home.
• Educate the family
about the effects that
passive smoking has on
• Encourage families to
join smoking cessation
Physical Examination
Physical examination of the respiratory system includes
inspection and observation, auscultation, percussion, and
Inspection and Observation
Color. Observe the child’s color, noting pallor or cyanosis
(circumoral or central). Pallor (pale appearance) occurs as
a result of peripheral vasoconstriction in an effort to conserve oxygen for vital functions. Cyanosis (a bluish
tinge to the skin) occurs as a result of hypoxia. It might
first present circumorally (just around the mouth) and
progress to central cyanosis. Newborns might have blue
hands and feet (acrocyanosis), a normal finding. The
infant might have pale hands and feet when cold or when
ill, as peripheral circulation is not well developed in early
infancy. It is important, then, to note if the cyanosis is
central (involving the midline), as this is a true sign of
hypoxia. Children with low red blood cell counts might
not demonstrate cyanosis as early in the course of hypox-
emia as children with normal hemoglobin levels. Therefore, absence of cyanosis or the degree of cyanosis present
is not always an accurate indication of the severity of respiratory involvement.
Note the rate and depth of respiration as well as work
of breathing. Often the first sign of respiratory illness in
infants and children is tachypnea.
Suprasternal notch
(Suprasternal retractions)
Xiphoid area
(Suprasternal retractions)
A slow or irregular respiratory rate
in an acutely ill infant or child is an
ominous sign. See Chapter 32: Nursing
Care of the Child During a Pediatric
Nose and Oral Cavity. Inspect the nose and oral cavity.
Note nasal drainage and redness or swelling in the nose.
Note the color of the pharynx, presence of exudates, tonsil size and status, and presence of lesions anywhere within
the oral cavity.
Cough and Other Airway Noises. Note the sound of the
cough (is it wet, productive, dry and hacking, tight?). If
noises associated with breathing are present (grunting,
stridor, or audible wheeze) these should also be noted.
Grunting occurs on expiration and is produced by premature glottic closure. It is an attempt to preserve or increase functional residual capacity. Grunting might occur
with alveolar collapse or loss of lung volume, such as in
atelectasis, pneumonia, and pulmonary edema. Stridor,
a high-pitched, readily audible inspiratory noise, is a sign
of upper airway obstruction. Sometimes wheezes can be
heard with the naked ear; these are referred to as audible
Respiratory Effort. Assess respiratory effort for depth
and quality. Is breathing labored? Infants and children
with significant nasal congestion may have tachypnea,
which usually resolves when the nose is cleared of mucus.
Mouth breathing also may occur when a large amount
of nasal congestion is present. Increased work of breathing, particularly if associated with restlessness and anxiety, usually indicates lower respiratory involvement.
Assess for the presence of nasal flaring, retractions,
or head bobbing. Nasal flaring can occur early in the
course of respiratory illness and is an effort to inhale
greater amounts of oxygen.
Synchronized respirations
● Figure 19.4 Seesaw respirations.
● Figure 19.3 Location of retractions.
Retractions (the inward pulling of soft tissues with
respiration) can occur in the intercostal, subcostal, substernal, supraclavicular, or suprasternal regions (Fig. 19.3).
Document the severity of the retractions: mild, moderate,
or severe. Also note the use of accessory neck muscles.
Note the presence of paradoxical breathing (lack of simultaneous chest and abdominal rise with the inspiratory
phase; Fig. 19.4). Bobbing of the head with each breath is
also a sign of increased respiratory effort.
Seesaw (or paradoxical) respirations are very
ineffective for ventilation and oxygenation. The
chest falls on inspiration and rises on expiration.
Anxiety and Restlessness. Is the child anxious or restless?
Restlessness, irritability, and anxiety result from difficulty in securing adequate oxygen. These might be very
early signs of respiratory distress, especially if accompanied by tachypnea. Restlessness might progress to listlessness and lethargy if the respiratory dysfunction is not
corrected (Fig. 19.5).
Clubbing. Inspect the fingertips for the presence of
clubbing, an enlargement of the terminal phalanx of the
finger, resulting in a change in the angle of the nail to the
fingertip (Fig. 19.6). Clubbing might occur in children
Lag on respirations
Seesaw respirations
● Figure 19.5 Hypoxia and respiratory distress
lead to anxiety and air hunger.
with a chronic respiratory illness. It is the result of
increased capillary growth as the body attempts to supply
more oxygen to distal body cells.
Hydration Status. Note the child’s hydration status. The
child with a respiratory illness is at risk for dehydration.
Pain related to sore throat or mouth lesions may prevent
the child from drinking properly. Nasal congestion interferes with the infant’s ability to suck effectively at the breast
or bottle. Tachypnea and increased work of breathing
interfere with the ability to safely ingest fluids.
Assess the oral mucosa for color and moisture. Note
skin turgor, presence of tears, and adequacy of urine
Assess lung sounds via auscultation. Evaluate breath
sounds over the anterior and posterior chest, as well as in
the axillary areas. Note the adequacy of aeration. Breath
sounds should be equal bilaterally. The intensity and
pitch should be equal throughout the lungs; document
diminished breath sounds. In the absence of concurrent
lower respiratory illness, the breath sounds should be
clear throughout all lung fields. During normal respira-
Early clubbing
tion, the inspiratory phase is usually softer and longer
than the expiratory phase.
Prolonged expiration is a sign of bronchial or bronchiolar obstruction. Bronchiolitis, asthma, pulmonary
edema, and an intrathoracic foreign body can cause prolonged expiratory phases.
Infants and young children have thin chest walls.
When the upper airway is congested (as in a severe cold),
the noise produced in the upper airway might be transmitted throughout the lung fields. When upper airway
congestion is transmitted to the lung fields, the congestedsounding noise heard over the trachea is the same type
of noise heard over the lungs but is much louder and
more intense. To ascertain if these sounds are truly
adventitious lung sounds or if they are transmitted from
the upper airway, auscultate again after the child coughs
or his or her nose has been suctioned. Another way to discern the difference is to compare auscultatory findings
over the trachea to the lung fields to determine if the
abnormal sound is truly from within the lung or is actually a sound transmitted from the upper airway.
Note adventitious sounds heard on auscultation.
Wheezing, a high-pitched sound that usually occurs on
expiration, results from obstruction in the lower trachea or
bronchioles. Wheezing that clears with coughing is most
likely a result of secretions in the lower trachea. Wheezing resulting from obstruction of the bronchioles, as in
bronchiolitis, asthma, chronic lung disease, or cystic fibrosis, that does not clear with coughing. Rales (crackling
sounds) result when the alveoli become fluid-filled, such
as in pneumonia. Note the location of the adventitious
sounds as well as the timing (on inspiration, expiration, or
both). Tachycardia might also be present. An increase in
heart rate often initially accompanies hypoxemia.
When percussing, note sounds that are not resonant in
nature. Flat or dull sounds might be percussed over partially
consolidated lung tissue, as in pneumonia. Tympany might
be percussed with a pneumothorax. Note the presence of
hyperresonance (as might be apparent with asthma).
Palpate the sinuses for tenderness in the older child.
Assess for enlargement or tenderness of the lymph nodes
of the head and neck. Document alterations in tactile
fremitus detected on palpation. Increased tactile fremitus
might occur in a case of pneumonia or pleural effusion.
Advanced clubbing
● Figure 19.6 (A) Normal fingertip. (B) Clubbing.
Fremitus might be decreased in the case of barrel chest,
as with cystic fibrosis. Absent fremitus might be noted
with pneumothorax or atelectasis.
Compare central and peripheral pulses. Note the quality of the pulse as well as the rate. With significant respiratory distress, perfusion often becomes compromised. Poor
perfusion might be reflected in weaker peripheral pulses
(radial, pedal) when compared to central pulses.
Laboratory and Diagnostic Testing
Common Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests 19.1 explains
the laboratory and diagnostic tests most commonly used
for a child with a respiratory disorder. The tests can assist
the physician in diagnosing the disorder and/or be used as
guidelines in determining ongoing treatment. Laboratory
or non-nursing personnel obtain some of the tests, while
the nurse might obtain others. In either instance the nurse
should be familiar with how the tests are obtained, what
they are used for, and normal versus abnormal results.
This knowledge will also be necessary when providing
patient and family education related to the testing.
Ambient light may interfere with pulse oximetry
readings. When the pulse oximeter probe is
placed on the infant’s foot or young child’s toe,
covering the probe and foot with a sock may
help to ensure an accurate measurement.
Common Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests 19.1 Respiratory Disorders
Nursing Implications
Allergy skin
Suggested allergen is
applied to skin via
scratch, pin or prick.
A wheal response
indicates allergy to the
substance. Carries risk
of anaphylaxis. (Nursing
note: Antihistamines
must be discontinued
before testing, as they
inhibit the test.)
Allergic rhinitis, asthma
Close observation for anaphylaxis
is necessary. Epinephrine and
emergency equipment should
be readily available. Some
children react to the skin test
almost immediately; others
take several minutes.
Arterial blood
Invasive method (requires
blood sampling) of
measuring arterial pH,
partial pressure of
oxygen and carbon
dioxide, and base
excess in blood
Usually reserved for
severe illness, the
intubated child, or
suspected carbon
dioxide retention
Hold pressure for several minutes
after a peripheral arterial stick
to avoid bleeding. Radial
arterial sticks are common
and can be very painful.
Note if the child is crying
excessively during the blood
draw, as this affects the
carbon dioxide level.
Chest x-ray
Radiographic image of
the expanded lungs:
can show hyperinflation,
atelectasis, pneumonia,
foreign body, pleural
effusion, abnormal
heart or lung size
Bronchiolitis, pneumonia,
tuberculosis, asthma,
cystic fibrosis,
Children may be afraid of the
x-ray equipment. If a parent
or familiar adult can accompany the child, often the child
is less afraid. If the child is
unable or unwilling to hold still
for the x-ray, restraint may be
necessary. Restraint should be
limited to the amount of time
needed for the x-ray.
Determines presence of
respiratory syncytial virus
(RSV), adenovirus,
influenza, parainfluenza
or Chlamydia in
To obtain a nasopharyngeal
specimen instill 1 to 3 mL of
sterile normal saline into one
nostril, aspirate the contents
using a small sterile bulb
syringe, place the contents in
sterile container, and immediately send them to the lab.
Common Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests 19.1 Respiratory Disorders
Nursing Implications
Radiographic examination
that uses a fluorescent
Identification of masses,
Requires the child to lay still.
Equipment can be frightening.
Children may respond to
presence of parent or
familiar adult.
Gastric washings
for AFB
Determines presence of
AFB (acid-fast bacilli) in
stomach (children often
swallow sputum)
Nasogastric tube is inserted and
saline is instilled and suctioned
out of the stomach for the
Peak expiratory
Measures the maximum
flow of air that can be
forcefully exhaled in
1 second. Measured in
liters per second.
Daily use can indicate
adequacy of asthma
It is important to establish the
child’s “personal best” by
taking twice-daily readings
over a 2-week period while
well. The average of these is
termed “personal best.”
Charts based on height and
age are also available to
determine expected peak
expiratory flow.
function tests
Measures respiratory flow
and lung volumes
Asthma, cystic fibrosis,
chronic lung disease
Usually performed by a respiratory therapist trained to do
the full spectrum of tests.
Spirometry can be obtained
by the trained nurse in the
outpatient setting.
Pulse oximetry
Noninvasive method of
continuously (or
measuring oxygen
Can be useful in any
situation in which a
child is experiencing
respiratory distress
Probe must be applied correctly
to finger, toe, foot, hand, or
ear in order for the machine
to appropriately pick up the
pulse and oxygen saturation.
Rapid flu test
Rapid test for detection of
influenza A or B
Should be done in first 24 hours
of illness so that medication
administration can begin.
Have the child gargle with sterile
normal saline and then spit
into a sterile container. Send
immediately to the lab.
Rapid strep test
Instant test for presence
of strep A antibody in
pharyngeal secretions
Pharyngitis, tonsillitis
Results in 5 to 10 minutes.
Negative tests should be
backed up with throat
RAST (radioallergosorbent test)
Measures minute quantities
of immunoglobulin E in
the blood.
Carries no risk of
anaphylaxis but is not as
sensitive as skin testing.
Asthma (food allergies)
Blood test that is usually sent out
to a reference laboratory
Sinus x-rays,
(CT), or
imaging (MRI)
Radiologic tests that may
show sinus involvement
Sinusitis, recurrent colds
X-ray results are usually received
more quickly than CT or MRI
Common Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests 19.1 Respiratory Disorders
Nursing Implications
Sputum culture
Bacterial culture of
invasive organisms in
the sputum
Pneumonia, cystic
fibrosis, tuberculosis
Must be true sputum, not mucus
from the mouth or nose. Child
can deep breathe, cough,
and spit, or specimen may be
obtained via suctioning of the
artificial airway.
Sweat chloride
Collection of sweat on
filter paper after
stimulation of skin with
pilocarpine. Measures
concentration of
chloride in the sweat.
Cystic fibrosis
May be difficult to obtain sweat
in a young infant
Throat culture
Bacterial culture (minimum
of 24 to 48 hours required) to determine
presence of streptococcus A or other bacteria
Pharyngitis, tonsillitis
Can be obtained on separate
swab at same time as rapid
strep test to decrease trauma
to the child (swab both applicators at once). Do not
perform immediately after the
child has had medication or
something to eat or drink.
Tuberculin skin
Mantoux test (intradermal
injection of purified
protein derivative)
Tuberculosis, chronic
Must be given intradermally; not
a valid test if injected
Upon completion of a thorough assessment, the nurse
might identify several nursing diagnoses, including:
• Ineffective airway clearance
• Ineffective breathing pattern
• Impaired gas exchange
• Risk for infection
• Pain
• Risk for fluid volume deficit
• Altered nutrition, less than body requirements
• Activity intolerance
• Fear
• Altered family processes
• Pain
After completing an assessment of Alexander, the
nurse notes the following: lots of clear secretions in the
airway, child appears pale, respiratory rate 68, retractions, nasal flaring, wheezing, and diminished breath
sounds. Based on these assessment findings, what would
your top three nursing diagnoses be for Alexander?
Nursing goals, interventions, and evaluation for the
child with a respiratory disorder are based on the nursing
diagnoses. Nursing Care Plan 19.1 can be used as a guide
in planning nursing care for the child with a respiratory
disorder. The nursing care plan should be individualized
based on the patient’s symptoms and needs; refer to
Chap. 15 for detailed information on pain management.
Additional information will be included later in the chapter as it relates to specific disorders.
Based on your top three nursing diagnoses for
Alexander, describe appropriate nursing interventions.
Oxygen Supplementation
Oxygen may be delivered to the child by a variety of
methods (Fig. 19.7). Since oxygen administration is considered a drug, it requires a physician’s order, except when
following emergency protocols outlined in a health care
facility’s policies and procedures. Many health care settings develop specific guidelines for oxygen administration that are often coordinated by respiratory therapists,
yet the nurse still remains responsible for ensuring that
oxygen is administered properly.
Oxygen sources include wall-mounted systems as well
as cylinders. The supply of oxygen available from a wallmounted source is limitless, but use of a wall-mounted
source restricts the child to the hospital room. Cylinders
are portable oxygen tanks; the D-cylinder holds a little less
(text continues on page 000)
Nursing Care Plan 19.1
Overview for the Child with a Respiratory Disorder
Nursing Diagnosis: Ineffective airway clearance related to inflammation,
increased secretions, mechanical obstruction, or pain as evidenced by presence
of secretions, productive cough, tachypnea, and increased work of breathing
Outcome identification and evaluation
Child will maintain patent airway, free from secretions or obstruction, easy work of
breathing, respiratory rate within parameters for age.
Interventions: maintaining a patent airway
• Position with airway open (sniffing position if supine): open airway allows adequate
• Humidify oxygen or room air and ensure adequate fluid intake (intravenous or oral) to
help liquefy secretions for ease in clearance.
• Suction with bulb syringe or via nasopharyngeal catheter as needed, particularly prior to
bottle-feeding to promote clearance of secretions.
• If tachypneic, maintain NPO status to avoid risk of aspiration.
• In older child, encourage expectoration of sputum with coughing to promote airway
• Perform chest physiotherapy if ordered to mobilize secretions.
• Ensure emergency equipment is readily available to avoid delay should airway become
Nursing Diagnosis: Ineffective breathing pattern related to inflammatory or infectious process
as evidenced by tachypnea, increased work of breathing, nasal flaring, retractions, diminished
breath sounds
Outcome identification and evaluation
Child will exhibit adequate ventilation: respiratory rate within parameters for age, easy
work of breathing (absence of retractions, accessory muscle use, grunting), clear
breath sounds with adequate aeration, oxygen saturation >94%
or within prescribed parameters.
Interventions: promoting effective breathing patterns
• Assess respiratory rate, breath sounds, and work of breathing frequently to ensure
progress with treatment and so that deterioration can be noted early.
• Use pulse oximetry to monitor oxygen saturation in the least invasive manner to note
adequacy of oxygenation and ensure early detection of hypoxemia.
• Position for comfort with open airway and room for lung expansion and use pillows or
padding if necessary to maintain position to ensure optimal ventilation via maximum
lung expansion.
• Administer supplemental oxygen and/or humidity as ordered to improve oxygenation.
• Allow for adequate sleep and rest periods to conserve energy.
• Administer antibiotics as ordered: may be indicated in the case of bacterial respiratory
• Encourage incentive spirometry and coughing with deep breathing (can be
accomplished through play) to maximize ventilation (play enhances the child’s
Overview for the Child with a Respiratory Disorder (continued)
Nursing Diagnosis: Gas exchange, impaired, related to airway plugging, hyperinflation, atelectasis
as evidenced by cyanosis, decreased oxygen saturation, and alterations in arterial blood gases
Outcome identification and evaluation
Gas exchange will be adequate: Pulse oximetry reading on room air is within normal
parameters for age, blood gases within normal limits, absence of cyanosis.
Interventions: promoting adequate gas exchange
• Administer oxygen as ordered to improve oxygenation.
• Monitor oxygen saturation via pulse oximetry to detect alterations in oxygenation.
• Encourage clearance of secretions via coughing, expectoration, chest physiotherapy,
and suctioning: mobilization of secretions may improve gas exchange.
• Administer bronchodilators if ordered (albuterol, levalbuterol, and racemic epinephrine)
to treat bronchospasm and improve gas exchange.
• Provide frequent contact and support to the child and family to decrease anxiety,
which increases the child’s oxygen demands.
• Assess and monitor mental status (confusion, lethargy, restlessness, combativeness):
hypoxemia can lead to changes in mental status.
Nursing Diagnosis: Risk for infection related to presence of infectious organisms as evidenced by
fever or presence of virus or bacteria on laboratory screening
Outcome identification and evaluation
Child will exhibit no signs of secondary infection and will not spread infection to others:
symptoms of infection decrease over time; others remain free from infection.
Interventions: preventing infection
• Maintain aseptic technique, practice good hand washing, and use disposable suction
catheters to prevent introduction of further infectious agents.
• Limit number of visitors and screen them for recent illness to prevent further infection.
• Administer antibiotics if prescribed to prevent or treat bacterial infection.
• Encourage nutritious diet according to child’s preferences and ability to feed orally to
assist body’s natural infection-fighting mechanisms.
• Isolate the child as required to prevent nosocomial spread of infection
• Teach child and family preventive measures such as good hand washing, covering
mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, adequate disposal of used tissues to
prevent nosocomial or community spread of infection.
Nursing Diagnosis: Fluid volume deficit, risk for, related to decreased oral intake, insensible losses
via fever, tachypnea, or diaphoresis
Outcome identification and evaluation
Fluid volume will be maintained: Oral mucosa moist and pink, skin turgor elastic, urine
output at least 1 to 2 mL/kg/hr.
Interventions: maintaining adequate fluid volume
• Administer intravenous fluids if ordered to maintain adequate hydration in NPO state.
• When allowed oral intake, encourage oral fluids. Popsicles, favorite fluids, and games
can be used to promote intake.
• Assess for signs of adequate hydration (elastic skin turgor, moist mucosa, adequate urine
• Strict intake and output monitoring can help identify fluid imbalance.
• Urine specific gravity, urine and serum electrolytes, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, and
osmolality are reliable indicators of fluid status.
Overview for the Child with a Respiratory Disorder (continued)
Nursing Diagnosis: Nutrition, altered: less than body requirements related to difficulty feeding as
evidenced by poor oral intake, tiring with feeding
Outcome identification and evaluation
Child will maintain adequate nutritional intake: Weight gain or maintenance occurs. Child
consumes adequate diet for age.
Interventions: promoting adequate nutritional intake
• Weigh on same scale at same time daily: weight gain or maintenance can indicate
adequate nutritional intake.
• Calorie counts over a 3-day period are helpful in determining if caloric intake is
• Assist family and child to choose higher-calorie, protein-rich foods to optimize growth
• Coax young children to eat better by playing games and offering favorite foods
resulting in improved intake.
Nursing Diagnosis: Activity intolerance related to high respiratory demand as evidenced by
increased work of breathing and requirement for frequent rest when playing
Outcome identification and evaluation
Child will resume normal activity level: Activity is tolerated without difficulty breathing. Pulse
oximetry readings and vital signs within parameters for age and activity level.
Interventions: increasing activity tolerance
• Provide rest periods balanced with periods of activity. Group nursing activities and visits
to allow for sufficient rest. Activity increases myocardial oxygen demand so must be
balanced with rest.
• Provide small, frequent meals to prevent overtiring (energy is expended
while eating).
• Encourage quiet activities that do not require exertion to prevent boredom.
• Allow gradual increase in activity as tolerated, keeping pulse oximetry reading within
normal parameters, to minimize risk for further respiratory compromise.
Nursing Diagnosis: Fear related to difficulty breathing, unfamiliar personnel, procedures, and environment (hospital) as evidenced by clinging, crying, fussing, verbalization, or lack of cooperation
Outcome identification and evaluation
Fear/anxiety will be reduced: decreased episodes of crying or fussing, happy and playful
at times.
Interventions: relieving fear
• Establish trusting relationship with child and family to decrease anxiety and fear.
• Explain procedures to child at developmentally appropriate level to decrease fear of
• Provide favorite blanket or bear to patient, as well as comfort measures preferred by
client such as rocking or music for added security.
• Involve parents in care to give child reassurance and decrease fear.
Overview for the Child with a Respiratory Disorder (continued)
Nursing Diagnosis: Family processes, altered, related to child’s illness or hospitalization as
evidenced by family’s presence in hospital, missed work, demonstration of inadequate coping
Outcome identification and evaluation
Parents demonstrate adequate coping and decreased anxiety: Parents are involved in
child’s care, ask appropriate questions and are able to discuss child’s care and
condition calmly.
Interventions: promoting adequate family processes
• Encourage parents’ verbalization of concerns related to child’s illness: allows for
identification of concerns and demonstrates to the family that the nurse also cares
about them, not just the child.
• Explain therapy, procedures, and child’s behavior to parents; developing an
understanding of the child’s current status helps decrease anxiety.
• Encourage parental involvement in care so that parents may continue to feel needed
and valued.
than 400 liters of oxygen and the E-cylinder holds about
650 liters of oxygen. Cylinders turn on with a metal key
that is kept with the tank. The tank empties relatively
quickly if the child requires a high flow of oxygen, so this
is not the best oxygen source in an emergency. The cylinder is useful for the child on low-flow oxygen because it
allows mobility.
Respiratory therapists usually maintain the respiratory equipment that is found in the emergency room or
hospital. However, in an outpatient setting the nurse may
be responsible for maintaining respiratory equipment and
checking the level of oxygen in the office’s oxygen tanks
each day.
Oxygen is highly flammable, so use safety precautions. Post signs (“Oxygen in Use”); inform the
family to avoid matches, lighters, and flammable
or volatile materials; and use only facilityapproved equipment.
The efficiency of oxygen delivery systems is affected by
several variables, including the child’s respiratory effort, the
liter flow of oxygen delivered, and whether the equipment
G Figure 19.7 (A) Simple oxygen mask provides about 40% oxygen. (B) The nasal
cannula provides an additional 4% oxygen per 1 L of oxygen flow (i.e., 1 L will
deliver 25% oxygen). (C) The nonrebreather mask provides 80%–100% oxygen.
is being used appropriately. In general, oxygen facemasks
come in infant, child, and adult sizes. Select the mask that
bests fits the child. In addition, ensure that the mask is
sealed properly to decrease the amount of oxygen that
escapes from the mask. Ensure that the liter flow is set
according to the manufacturer’s recommendations for use
with that particular delivery method. The oxygen flow
rate or concentration is usually determined by the physician’s order. Whichever method of delivery is used, provide humidification during oxygen delivery to prevent
drying of nasal passages and to assist with liquefying secretions. Table 19.1 gives details on oxygen delivery methods.
Monitor vital signs, color, respiratory
effort, pulse oximetry, and level of
consciousness before, during, and
after oxygen therapy to evaluate its
Acute Infectious Disorders
Acute infectious disorders include the common cold,
sinusitis, influenza, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, laryngitis, croup
syndromes, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), pneumonia,
and bronchitis.
The common cold is also referred to as a viral upper respiratory infection (URI) or nasopharyngitis. Colds can
be caused by a number of different viruses, including
rhinoviruses, parainfluenza, RSV, enteroviruses, and
adenoviruses (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases, 2004). Recently, human meta-pneumovirus
has been identified as an important cause of the common
cold (Burke, 2004). Viral particles spread through the air
or from person-to-person contact. Colds occur more frequently in winter. They affect children of all ages and have
a higher incidence among daycare attendees and schoolage children. It is not unusual for a child to have six to
nine colds per year. Passive smoking increases the risk of
catching colds (Johannsson et al., 2003). Spontaneous
resolution occurs after about 7 to 10 days. Potential complications include secondary bacterial infections of the
ears, throat, sinuses, or lungs.
Therapeutic management of the common cold is
directed toward symptom relief. Nasal congestion may be
relieved via humidity and use of normal saline nasal wash
or spray followed by suctioning. Antihistamines are not
indicated, as they dry secretions further. Over-the-counter
cold preparations are available singly and in combinations.
These preparations have not been proven to reduce the
length or severity of the cold but may offer symptomatic
relief in some children.
Nursing Assessment
The child may have either a stuffy or runny nose. Nasal
discharge is usually thin and watery at first but may
become thicker and discolored. The color of nasal discharge is not an accurate indicator of viral versus bacterial infection. The child may be hoarse and complain of
a sore throat. Cough usually produces very little sputum. Fever, fatigue, watery eyes, and appetite loss may
also occur. Symptoms are generally at their worst over
the first few days and then decrease over the course of
the illness.
Assess for risk factors such as daycare or school attendance. Inspect for edema and vasodilation of the mucosa.
Diagnosis is based on clinical presentation rather than
lab or x-ray studies. Comparison Chart 19.1 differentiates
causes of nasal congestion.
Nursing Management
Nursing management of the child with a common cold
consists of promoting comfort, providing family education,
and preventing spread of the cold.
Promoting Comfort
Nursing care of the common cold is aimed at supportive measures. Nasal congestion may be relieved with
the use of normal saline nose drops, followed by bulb
syringe suctioning in infants and toddlers. Older children may use a normal saline nose spray to mobilize
secretions. A cool mist humidifier also helps with nasal
congestion. Generally, other over-the-counter nose sprays
are not recommended for use in children, but they are
sometimes prescribed for very short-term use. Promotion
of adequate oral fluid intake is important to liquefy
Educate parents about the use of cold and cough medications. Although they may offer some symptomatic relief,
they have not been proven to shorten the length of cold
symptoms. Counsel parents to use the appropriate product
depending on the symptom relief desired, rather than a
combination product. Products containing acetaminophen
combined with other “cold symptom” medications may
mask a fever in the child who is developing a secondary
bacterial infection. As with all viral infections in children,
teach parents that aspirin use should be avoided because
of its association with Reye syndrome.
Providing Family Education
Currently there are no medications available to treat the
viruses that cause the common cold, so symptomatic
treatment is all that is necessary. Antibiotics are not indicated unless the child also has a bacterial infection.
Explain to parents the importance of reserving antibiotic
use for appropriate illnesses. Provide education about
the use of normal saline nose drops and bulb suctioning
Table 19.1 Oxygen Delivery Methods
Delivery Method
Nursing Implications
Simple mask
Provides 35% to 60% oxygen
with a flow rate of 6 to
10 L/minute. Oxygen delivery
percentage affected by
respiratory rate, inspiratory
flow, and adequacy
of mask fit.
• Must maintain oxygen flow rate of at least 6 L/minute
to maintain inspired oxygen concentration and
prevent rebreathing of carbon dioxide
• Mask must fit snugly to be effective but should not be
so tight as to irritate the face.
Venturi mask
Provides 24% to 50% oxygen by
using a special gauge at
the base of the mask that
allows mixing of room air
with oxygen flow
• Set oxygen flow rate according to percentage of
oxygen desired as indicated on the gauge/dial.
• As with simple mask, must fit snugly
Nasal cannula
Provides low oxygen concentration (22% to 44%) but
needs patent nasal
• Must be used with humidification to prevent drying
and irritation of airways
• Can provide very small amounts of oxygen (as low as
25 cc/minute)
• Maximum recommended liter flow in children is
4 L/minute.
• Children can eat or talk while on oxygen.
• Inspired oxygen concentration affected by mouth
• Requires patent nasal passages
Oxygen tent
Provides high-humidity
environment with up to
50% oxygen concentration
• Oxygen level drops when tent is opened.
• Must change linen frequently as it becomes damp
from the humidity
• Secure edges of tent with blankets or by tucking
edges under mattress.
• Young children may be fearful and resistant.
• Mist may interfere with visualization of child inside
Oxygen hood
Provides high concentration
(up to 80% to 90%) for
infants only. Allows easy
access to chest and lower
• Liter flow must be set at 10 to 15 L/minute.
• Good method for infant but need to remove
for feeding
• Can and should be humidified
Simple facemask with an
oxygen reservoir bag.
Provides 50% to 60% oxygen
• Must set liter flow rate at 10 to 12 L/min to prevent
rebreathing of carbon dioxide
• The reservoir bag does not completely empty when
child inspires if flow rate is set properly.
Simple facemask with valves
at the exhalation ports and
an oxygen reservoir bag
with a valve to prevent
exhaled air from entering
the reservoir. Provides 95%
oxygen concentration.
• Must set liter flow rate at 10 to 12 L/min to prevent
rebreathing of carbon dioxide
• The reservoir bag does not completely empty when
child inspires if flow rate is set properly.
● COMPARISON CHART 19.1 Causes of Nasal Congestion
Sign or Symptom
Allergic Rhinitis
Common Cold
Length of illness
Varies, may have year-round
10 days or less
Longer than 10 to 14 days
Nasal discharge
Thin, watery, clear
Thick, white, yellow, or
green; can be thin
Thick, yellow or green
Nasal congestion
Bad breath
to clear the infant’s nose of secretions. Normal saline
nasal wash using a bulb syringe to instill the solution is
also helpful for children of all ages with nasal congestion.
Though normal saline for nasal administration is available commercially, parents can also make it at home
(Box 19.2). Teaching Guideline 19.1 gives instructions
on use of the bulb syringe.
Counsel parents about symptoms of complications of
the common cold. These include:
• Prolonged fever
• Increased throat pain or enlarged, painful lymph nodes
• Increased or worsening cough, cough lasting longer than
10 days, chest pain, difficulty breathing
• Earache, headache, tooth or sinus pain
• Unusual irritability or lethargy
• Skin rash
If complications do occur, tell parents to notify the
health care provider for further instruction or reassessment.
Preventing the Common Cold
Teaching about ways to prevent the common cold is a
vital nursing intervention. Explain that frequent hand
washing helps to decrease the spread of viruses that
cause the common cold. Teach parents and family to
avoid second-hand smoke as well as crowded places,
especially during the winter. Avoid close contact with
BOX 19.2
Mix 8 oz distilled water, a half-teaspoon sea salt, and a
quarter-teaspoon baking soda. Keeps for 24 hours in
the refrigerator, but should be allowed to come to
room temperature prior to use.
individuals known to have a cold. Encourage parents
and families to consume a healthy diet and get enough
rest (Torpy, 2003). See Healthy People 2010.
Corey Davis, a 3-year-old, is brought to the clinic by her
mother. She presents with a runny nose, congestion, and a
nonproductive cough. Her mother says, “She is miserable.”
What other assessment information would be helpful?
Based on the history and clinical presentation, Corey
is diagnosed with a common cold. What education
would be helpful for this family? Include ways to
improve Corey’s comfort and ways to prevent the
common cold.
Sinusitis (also called rhinosinusitis) generally refers to a
bacterial infection of the paranasal sinuses. The disease
may be either acute or chronic in nature, with the treatment
approach varying with chronicity. Approximately 5% of
upper respiratory infections are complicated with acute
sinusitis. In young children the maxillary and ethmoid
sinuses are the main sites of infection. After age 10 years,
the frontal sinuses may be more commonly involved.
Mucosal swelling, decreased ciliary movement, and thickened nasal discharge all contribute to bacterial invasion
of the nose. Nasal polyps also place the child at risk for
bacterial sinusitis. Complications include orbital cellulitis
and intracranial infections such as subdural empyemas.
Symptoms lasting less than 30 days generally indicate
acute sinusitis, whereas symptoms persisting longer than
4 to 6 weeks usually indicate chronic sinusitis. Sinusitis is
managed with antibiotic treatment. The course of treatment is a minimum of 10 days. The current American
19 . 1
Using the Bulb Syringe to Suction Nasal Secretions
• Hold the infant on your lap or on the bed with head
tilted slightly back.
• (If
in infant’s
infant’s nostrils.
the of
•• (If
in infant’s
infant’s nostrils.
the of
• Remove the syringe and squeeze bulb over tissue or
the sink to empty it of secretions.
• Compress the sides of the bulb syringe completely.
Use only a rubber-tipped bulb syringe.
• Repeat on alternate nostril if necessary. Using a bulb
syringe prior to bottle-feeding or breastfeeding may
relieve congestion enough to allow the infant to suck
more efficiently.
• Clean the bulb syringe thoroughly with warm water
after each use and allow to air dry.
Reduce the number of
courses of antibiotics
prescribed for the sole
diagnosis of the
common cold.
Nursing Management
• Appropriately educate
families that the cause
of the common cold is
a number of viruses and
that antibiotics are
inappropriate for the
treatment of viral
• Encourage families to
use measures such as
normal saline nasal
washes to decrease
symptoms associated
with the common cold
more quickly.
Academy of Pediatrics recommendations state that antibiotics should be continued for 7 days once the child is free
from symptoms to eradicate the infection (AAP, 2001).
Naturally, chronic sinusitis requires a longer course of
treatment than acute sinusitis. Surgical therapy may be
indicated for children with chronic sinusitis, particularly if
it is recurrent or if nasal polyps are present.
Nursing Assessment
The most common presentation of sinusitis is persistent
signs and symptoms of a cold. Rather than improving
after 7 to 10 days, nasal discharge persists. Explore the
history for:
• Cough
• Fever
• In preschoolers or older children, halitosis (bad breath)
• Facial pain may or may not be present, so is not a reliable
indicator of disease.
• Eyelid edema (in the case of ethmoid sinus involvement)
• Irritability
• Poor appetite
Cold symptoms that are severe and not improving
over time may also indicate sinusitis (Leung & Kellner,
2004). Assess for risk factors such as a history of recurrent cold symptoms or a history of nasal polyps.
On physical examination, note eyelid swelling, extent
of nasal drainage, and halitosis. Inspect the throat for evidence of postnasal drainage. Inspect the nasal mucosa for
erythema. Palpate the sinuses, noting pain with mild pressure. The diagnosis may be made based on the history
and clinical presentation, augmented by x-ray, computed
tomography scan, or magnetic resonance imaging findings in some cases (Leung & Kellner, 2004). (Refer to
Comparison Chart 19.1, which differentiates the causes
of nasal congestion.)
Normal saline nose drops or spray, cool mist humidifiers, and adequate oral fluid intake are recommended
for children with sinusitis. Teach families the importance of continuing the full course of antibiotics to
eradicate the cause of infection. Also educate the family that using decongestants, antihistamines, and intranasal steroids as adjuncts in the treatment of sinusitis
has not been shown to be beneficial. Normal saline nose
spray or nasal washes may promote drainage (Leung &
Kellner, 2004).
Influenza viral infection occurs primarily during the winter. “The flu” is spread through inhalation of droplets or
contact with fine-particle aerosols. Infected children shed
the virus for 1 to 2 days before symptoms begin. Average
annual infection rates in children range from 35% to 50%
(Brunell et al., 2001). Influenza viruses primarily affect
the upper respiratory epithelium but can cause systemic
effects as well. Children with chronic heart or lung conditions, diabetes, chronic renal disease, or immune deficiency are at higher risk than other children for more
severe influenza infection.
Bacterial infections of the respiratory system commonly occur as complications of influenza infection, severe
pneumococcal pneumonia in particular (AAP, 2002).
Otitis media occurs in 30% to 50% of all influenza cases
(Brunell et al., 2001). Less common complications include
Reye syndrome and acute myositis. Reye syndrome is an
acute encephalopathy that has been associated with
aspirin use in the influenza-infected child. Acute myositis
is particular to children. A sudden onset of severe pain
and tenderness in both calves causes the child to refuse
to walk. Due to the potential for complications, a prolonged fever or a fever that returns during convalescence
should be investigated.
Nursing Assessment
Children who attend daycare or school are at higher risk
for influenza infection than those who are routinely
at home. Note the presence of risk factors for severe
disease, such as chronic heart or lung disease (such as
asthma), diabetes, chronic renal disease, or immune
deficiency or children with cancer receiving chemotherapy. School-age children and adolescents experience the
illness similarly to adults. Abrupt onset of fever, facial
flushing, chills, headache, myalgia, and malaise are
accompanied by cough and coryza. About half of
infected individuals have a dry or sore throat. Ocular
symptoms such as photophobia, tearing, burning, and
eye pain are common.
Infants and young children exhibit symptoms similar to other respiratory illnesses. Fever greater than
39.5° C is common. Infants may be mildly toxic in
appearance and irritable and have a cough, coryza, and
pharyngitis. Wheezing may occur, as influenza also can
cause bronchiolitis. An erythematous rash may be present, and diarrhea may also occur. Diagnosis may be
confirmed by a rapid assay test.
either the rapid diagnostic test or throat culture (described
below) is positive for group A streptococci, penicillin
is generally prescribed. Appropriate alternative antibiotics include amoxicillin and, for those allergic to
penicillin, macrolides and cephalosporins (Hayes &
Williamson, 2001).
Nursing Management
Nursing management of influenza is mainly supportive.
Symptomatic treatment of cough and fever and maintenance of hydration are the focus of care. Amantadine
hydrochloride (Symmetrel) and other newer antiviral
drugs can be effective in reducing symptoms associated
with influenza if started within the first 24 to 48 hours
of the illness.
A “strep carrier” is a child who has a positive
throat culture for streptococci when
asymptomatic. Strep carriers are not at
risk for complications from streptococci as
are those who are acutely infected with streptococci
and are symptomatic.
Nursing Assessment
Preventing Influenza Infection
Yearly vaccination against influenza is recommended
for high-risk groups. Children who are 6 months or older
considered high risk are those who:
• Have chronic heart or lung conditions
• Have sickle cell anemia or other hemoglobinopathy
• Are under medical care for diabetes, chronic renal disease, or immune deficiency
• Are on long-term aspirin therapy (risk of developing Reye
syndrome after the flu)
Among otherwise healthy children, infants and toddlers are at highest risk for developing severe disease. All
healthy children between the ages of 6 and 59 months
should also be immunized. Refer to Chapter 9 for more
information on immunizations.
Inflammation of the throat mucosa (pharynx) is referred
to as pharyngitis. A sore throat may accompany nasal
congestion and is often viral in nature. A bacterial sore
throat most often occurs without nasal symptoms. Group
A streptococci account for 15% to 30% of cases, with
the remainder being caused by other viruses or bacteria
(Bisno, 2001).
Complications of group A streptococcal infection
include acute rheumatic fever (see Chapter 20) and acute
glomerulonephritis (see Chapter 22). An additional
complication of streptococcal pharyngitis is peritonsillar
abscess; this may be noted by asymmetric swelling of the
tonsils, shift of the uvula to one side, and palatal edema.
Retropharyngeal abscess may also follow pharyngitis and
is most common in young children (Ebell et al., 2000).
It can progress to the point of airway obstruction and
requires careful evaluation and appropriate treatment.
Viral pharyngitis is usually self-limited and does
not require therapy beyond symptomatic relief. Group A
streptococcal pharyngitis requires antibiotic therapy. If
Onset of the illness is often quite abrupt. The history may
include a fever, sore throat and difficulty swallowing,
headache, and abdominal pain, which are quite common.
Inquire about recent incidence of viral or strep throat in
the family, daycare, or school setting.
Inspect the pharynx and tonsils, which may demonstrate varying degrees of inflammation (Fig. 19.8). Exudate
may be present but is not diagnostic of bacterial infection.
Note the presence of petechiae on the palate. Inspect the
tongue for a strawberry appearance. Palpate for enlargement and tenderness of the anterior cervical nodes. Inspect
the skin for the presence of a fine, red, sandpaper-like
rash (called scarlatiniform), particularly on the trunk
or abdomen, a common finding with streptococcus A
The nurse may obtain a throat swab for rapid diagnostic testing and throat culture. If both tests are being
obtained, the applicators may be swabbed simultaneously to decrease perceived trauma to the child. The
rapid strep test is a sensitive and reliable measure rarely
● Figure 19.8 Note the red color of the pharynx, as well as
redness and significant enlargement of the tonsils.
resulting in false-positive readings (Farrar-Simpson et al.,
2005). If the rapid strep test is negative, the second swab
may be sent for a throat culture.
Nursing Management
Nursing management of the child with pharyngitis focuses
on promoting comfort and providing family education.
Promoting Comfort
Saline gargles (made with 8 oz of warm water and a halfteaspoon of table salt) are soothing for children old enough
to cooperate. Analgesics such as acetaminophen and
ibuprofen may ease fever and pain. Sucking on throat
lozenges or hard candy may also ease pain. Cool mist
humidity helps to keep the mucosa moist in the event of
mouth breathing. Encourage the child to ingest Popsicles,
cool liquids, and ice chips to maintain hydration.
Providing Family Education
Parents may be accustomed to “sore throats” being treated
with antibiotics, but in the case of a viral cause antibiotics
will not be necessary and the pharyngitis will resolve in a
few days. For the child with streptococcal pharyngitis, urge
parents to have the child complete the entire prescribed
course of antibiotics (Parmet, 2004). After 24 hours of
antibiotic therapy, instruct the parents to discard the
child’s toothbrush to avoid reinfection. Children may
return to day care or school after they have been receiving antibiotics for 24 hours, as they are considered noncontagious at that point.
Inflammation of the tonsils often occurs with pharyngitis
and thus may also be viral or bacterial in nature. Viral
infections require only symptomatic treatment. Treatment
for bacterial tonsillitis is the same as for bacterial pharyngitis. Peritonsillar abscess may follow a bout of tonsillitis
and requires incision and drainage of the pus-containing
mass followed by a course of intravenous antibiotics
(Belkengren & Sapala, 2003). Occasionally surgical intervention is warranted. Tonsillectomy (surgical removal of
the palatine tonsils) may be indicated for the child with
recurrent streptococcal tonsillitis, massive tonsillar hypertrophy, or other reasons. When hypertrophied adenoids
obstruct breathing, then adenoidectomy (surgical removal
of the adenoids) may be indicated.
Nursing Assessment
Note whether fever is present currently or by history.
Inquire about the history of recurrent pharyngitis or tonsillitis. Note if the child’s voice sounds muffled or hoarse.
Inspect the pharynx for redness and enlargement of the
tonsils. As the tonsils enlarge, the child may experience
difficulty breathing and swallowing. When tonsils touch at
the midline (“kissing tonsils” or 4+ in size), the airway may
become obstructed (see Fig. 19.8). Also, if the adenoids
are enlarged, the posterior nares become obstructed. The
child may breathe through the mouth and may snore.
Palpate the anterior cervical nodes for enlargement and
tenderness. Rapid test or culture may be positive for streptococcus A (Johansson & Mannson, 2003).
Nursing Management
Tonsillitis that is medically treated requires the same
nursing management as pharyngitis. Nursing care for the
child after tonsillectomy is described below.
Promoting Airway Clearance
Until fully awake, place the child in a side-lying or prone
position to facilitate safe drainage of secretions. Once
alert, he or she may prefer to sit up or have the head of
the bed elevated. Suctioning, if necessary, should be
done carefully to avoid trauma to the surgical site. Dried
blood may be present on the teeth and the nares, with
old blood present in emesis. Since the presence of blood
can be very frightening to parents, alert them to this
Maintaining Fluid Volume
Hemorrhage is unusual postoperatively but may occur any
time from the immediate postoperative period to as late as
10 days after surgery (Peterson & Losek, 2004). Inspect
the throat for bleeding. Mucus tinged with blood may be
expected, but fresh blood in the secretions indicates bleeding. Early bleeding may be identified by continuous swallowing of small amounts of blood while awake or sleeping.
Other signs of hemorrhage include tachycardia, pallor,
restlessness, frequent throat clearing, and emesis of bright
red blood.
To avoid trauma to the surgical site, discourage the
child from coughing, clearing the throat, blowing the nose,
and using straws. Upon discharge, instruct the parents to
immediately report any sign of bleeding to the physician.
To maintain fluid volume postoperatively, encourage children to take any fluids they desire; Popsicles and ice chips
are particularly soothing. Citrus juice and brown or red
fluids should be avoided: the acid in citrus juice may irritate the throat, and red or brown fluids may be confused
with blood if vomiting occurs.
Relieving Pain
For the first 24 hours after surgery, the throat is very
sore. Adequate pain relief is essential to establish adequate oral fluid intake. An ice collar may be prescribed,
as well as analgesics with or without narcotics. Counsel
parents to maintain pain control upon discharge from
the facility, not only for the child’s sake but also to
enable the child to continue to drink fluids (Louloudes,
Infectious mononucleosis is a self-limited illness caused by
the Epstein-Barr virus. It is characterized by fever, malaise,
sore throat, and lymphadenopathy. Mononucleosis is
commonly called the “kissing disease” since it is transmitted by oropharyngeal secretions. It can occur at any
age but is most often diagnosed in adolescents and young
adults. Some infected individuals may have concomitant
streptococcal pharyngitis. Complications include splenic
rupture, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and aseptic meningitis
(Jensen, 2004).
Nursing Assessment
Note any history of exposure to infected individuals.
Determine history of fever and onset and progression of
sore throat, malaise, and other complaints. Observe for
periorbital edema. Inspect the pharynx and tonsils for
inflammation and the presence of patches of gray exudate.
Petechiae may be present on the palate. Palpate for bilateral nontender enlargement of the posterior cervical
lymph nodes. After 3 to 5 days of illness, the pharynx may
become edematous and the tonsillar exudate more extensive. Lymphadenopathy may progress to include the anterior cervical nodes, which may become tender. Palpate
the abdomen for the presence of splenomegaly or
hepatomegaly. An erythematous maculopapular rash may
appear as the illness progresses. Definitive diagnosis may
be made by Monospot or Epstein-Barr virus titers.
The Monospot is usually negative
if obtained within the first 7 to 10 days
of illness with infectious mononucleosis.
Epstein-Barr virus titer is reliable at any point
in the illness.
Nursing Management
Nursing management of mononucleosis is primarily symptomatic. The throat may be very sore, so analgesics and
salt-water gargles are recommended. Bed rest should be
encouraged while the child is febrile. Frequent rest periods may be necessary for several weeks after the onset of
illness, as fatigue may persist as long as 6 weeks. During
the acute phase, if tonsillar or pharyngeal edema threatens to obstruct the airway, then corticosteroids may be
given to decrease the inflammation. In the presence of
splenomegaly or hepatomegaly, strenuous activity and
contact sports should be avoided. Appearance of rash or
jaundice should be reported to the physician.
Concomitant strep throat in the presence of
infectious mononucleosis should be treated
with an antibiotic other than ampicillin, as it
may cause an allergic-type rash if used in the
presence of mononucleosis.
Inflammation of the larynx is termed laryngitis. It may
occur alone or in conjunction with other respiratory
symptoms. It is characterized by a hoarse voice or loss of
the voice (so soft as to make it difficult to hear). Oral fluids might offer relief, but resting the voice for 24 hours
will allow the inflammation to subside. Laryngitis alone
requires no further intervention.
Children between 3 months and 3 years of age are the
most frequently affected with croup, though croup may
affect any child. Croup is also referred to as laryngotracheobronchitis because inflammation and edema of the
larynx, trachea, and bronchi occur as a result of viral infection. Parainfluenza is responsible for the majority of cases
of croup. Other causes include adenovirus, influenza virus
A and B, RSV, and rarely measles virus or Mycoplasma
pneumoniae (Bjornson et al., 2004). The inflammation and
edema obstruct the airway, resulting in symptoms. Mucus
production also occurs, further contributing to obstruction
of the airway. Narrowing of the subglottic area of the
trachea results in audible inspiratory stridor. Edema of
the larynx causes hoarseness. Inflammation in the larynx and trachea causes the characteristic barking cough
of croup. Symptoms occur most often at night, and croup
is usually self-limited, lasting only about 3 to 5 days
(Leung et al., 2004).
Croup often presents suddenly at night, with resolution of symptoms in the morning. Complications of
croup are rare but may include worsening respiratory
distress, hypoxia, or bacterial superinfection (as in the
case of bacterial tracheitis). Croup is usually managed on
an outpatient basis, with only 1% to 2% of cases requiring
hospitalization (Leung et al., 2004).
Corticosteroids (usually a single dose) are used to
decrease inflammation and racemic epinephrine aerosols
demonstrate the alpha-adrenergic effect of mucosal vasoconstriction, helping to decrease edema (Bjornson et al.,
2004; Schooff, 2005). Children with croup may be hospitalized if they have significant stridor at rest or severe
retractions after a several-hour period of observation.
Comparison Chart 19.2 gives information comparing
croup to epiglottitis.
Nursing Assessment
Note the age of the child; children between 3 months and
3 years of age are most likely to present with viral croup
(laryngotracheobronchitis). History may reveal a cough
that developed during the night (most common presentation) and that sounds like barking (or a seal). Inspect
for presence of mild URI symptoms. Temperature may
be normal or elevated mildly. Listen for inspiratory stridor and observe for suprasternal retractions. Auscultate
● COMPARISON CHART 19.2 Croup vs. Epiglottitis
Spasmodic Croup
Preceding illness
None or minimal
None or mild
upper respiratory
Usually affects age:
3 months to 3 years
1 to 8 years
Usually sudden, often
at night
Rapid (within hours)
Barking cough,
Toxic appearance
influenzae type B
the lungs for adequacy of breath sounds. Various scales
are available for scoring croup severity, though these are
of limited value in the clinical assessment and treatment
of croup (Leung et al., 2004). Croup is usually diagnosed
based on history and clinical presentation, but a lateral
neck x-ray may be obtained to rule out epiglottitis.
The child with fever, a toxic appearance, and
increasing respiratory distress despite appropriate
croup treatment may have bacterial tracheitis
(Orenstein, 2004). Notify the physician of these
findings in a child with croup.
Nursing Management
If the child’s care is being managed at home, advise parents
about the symptoms of respiratory distress and instruct
them to seek treatment if the child’s respiratory condition
worsens. Teach parents to expose their child to humidified air (via a cool mist humidifier or steamy bathroom).
Though never clinically proven, use of humidified air has
long been recommended for alleviating coughing jags and
anecdotally reported as helpful. Administer dexamethasone if ordered or teach parents about home administration. Explain to parents that the effects of racemic
epinephrine last about 2 hours and the child must be
observed closely as occasionally a child will worsen again,
requiring another aerosol. Teaching Guideline 19.2 gives
information about home care of croup.
Epiglottitis (inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis)
is most often caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b.
Extensive use of the Hib vaccine since the 1980s has
resulted in a significant decrease in the incidence of
epiglottitis. Epiglottitis usually occurs in children between
the ages of 2 and 7 years and can be life threatening (Leung
et al., 2004). Respiratory arrest and death may occur if the
airway becomes completely occluded. Additional complications include pneumothorax and pulmonary edema.
Therapeutic management focuses on airway maintenance
and support. Intravenous antibiotic therapy is necessary
(Tanner et al., 2002). The child will be managed in the
intensive care unit. Comparison Chart 19.2 gives information comparing croup to epiglottitis.
Home Care of Croup
• Keep the child quiet and discourage crying.
• Allow the child to sit up (in your arms).
• Encourage rest and fluid intake.
• If stridor occurs, take the child into a steamy bathroom
for 10 minutes.
• Administer medication (corticosteroid) as directed.
• Watch the child closely. Call the physician if:
• The child breathes faster, has retractions, or has any
other difficulty breathing
• The nostrils flare or the lips or nails have a bluish tint
• The cough or stridor does not improve with exposure
to moist air
• Restlessness increases or the child is confused
• The child begins to drool or cannot swallow
Adapted from Knutson, 2004.
Nursing Assessment
Carefully assess the child with suspected epiglottitis. Note
sudden onset of symptoms and high fever. The child has
an overall toxic appearance. He or she may refuse to speak
or may speak only with a very soft voice. The child may
refuse to lie down and may assume the characteristic position, sitting forward with the neck extended. Drooling may
be present. Note anxiety or a frightened appearance. Note
the child’s color. Cough is usually absent. A lateral neck
x-ray may be performed to determine the presence of
epiglottitis. This is done cautiously, so as not to induce airway obstruction with changes in position of the child’s
neck (Bjornson et al., 2004; Tanner et al., 2002).
Nursing Management
Do not leave the child unattended. Keep the child and parents as calm as possible. Allow the child to assume a position of comfort. Do not place the child in a supine position,
as airway occlusion may occur. Provide 100% oxygen in
the least invasive manner that is most acceptable to the
child. Do not under any circumstance attempt to visualize the throat: reflex laryngospasm may occur, precipitating immediate airway occlusion. If the child with
epiglottitis experiences complete airway occlusion, an
emergency tracheostomy may be necessary. Ensure that
emergency equipment is available and that personnel
specifically trained in intubation of the pediatric occluded
airway and percutaneous tracheostomy are notified of
the child’s presence in the facility (Bjornson et al., 2004;
Tanner et al., 2002).
Groothius, 2000). The frequency and severity of RSV
infection decrease with age. Repeated RSV infections
occur throughout life but are usually localized to the upper
respiratory tract after toddlerhood.
Therapeutic Management
Management of RSV focuses on supportive treatment.
Supplemental oxygen, nasal and/or nasopharyngeal suctioning, oral or intravenous hydration, and inhaled bronchodilator therapy are used. Many infants are managed at
home with close observation and adequate hydration.
Hospitalization is required for children with more severe
disease. The infant with tachypnea, significant retractions,
poor oral intake, or lethargy can deteriorate quickly, to the
point of requiring ventilatory support, and thus warrants
hospital admission.
RSV is a highly contagious virus and may be contracted
through direct contact with respiratory secretions or from
particles on objects contaminated with the virus (Lauts,
2005). RSV invades the nasopharynx, where it replicates
and then spreads down to the lower airway via aspiration
of upper airway secretions. RSV infection causes necrosis of the respiratory epithelium of small airways, peribronchiolar mononuclear infiltration, and plugging of the
lumens with mucus and exudate. The small airways
become variably obstructed; this allows adequate inspiratory volume but prevents full expiration. This leads
to hyperinflation and atelectasis (Cooper et al., 2003)
(Fig. 19.9). Serious alterations in gas exchange occur,
Epiglottitis is characterized by
dysphagia, drooling, anxiety, irritability,
and significant respiratory distress.
Prepare for the event of sudden airway
Bronchiolitis is an acute inflammatory process of the
bronchioles and small bronchi. Nearly always caused by
a viral pathogen, RSV accounts for the majority of cases
of bronchiolitis, with adenovirus, parainfluenza, and
human meta-pneumovirus also being important causative
agents. This discussion will focus on RSV bronchiolitis.
The peak incidence of bronchiolitis is in the winter
and spring, coinciding with RSV season. RSV season
in the United States and Canada generally begins in
September or October and continues through April or
May. Virtually all children will contract RSV infection
within the first few years of life. RSV bronchiolitis occurs
most often in infants and toddlers, with a peak incidence
around 6 months of age. The severity of disease is related
inversely to the age of the child, with the most severe cases
occurring between 1 and 3 months of age (Weisman &
● Figure 19.9 Hyperinflation with atelectasis
is noted upon chest x-ray.
with arterial hypoxemia and carbon dioxide retention
resulting from mismatching of pulmonary ventilation and
perfusion. Hypoventilation occurs secondary to markedly
increased work of breathing.
Nursing Assessment
For a full description of the assessment phase of the nursing process, refer to page 00. Assessment findings pertinent to bronchiolitis are discussed below.
Health History
Elicit a description of the present illness and chief complaint. Common signs and symptoms reported during the
health history might include:
• Onset of illness with a clear runny nose (sometimes
• Pharyngitis
• Low-grade fever
• Development of cough 1 to 3 days into the illness, followed by a wheeze shortly thereafter
• Poor feeding
Explore the child’s current and past medical history for
risk factors such as:
• Young age (less than 2 years old), more severe disease
in a child less than 6 months old
• Prematurity
• Multiple births
• Birth during April to September
• History of chronic lung disease (bronchopulmonary
• Cyanotic or complicated congenital heart disease
• Immunocompromise
• Male gender
• Exposure to passive tobacco smoke
• Crowded living conditions
• Daycare attendance
• School-age siblings
• Low socioeconomic status
• Lack of breastfeeding
Physical Examination
Examination of the child with RSV involves inspection,
observation, and auscultation.
Inspection and Observation
Observe the child’s general appearance and color (centrally and peripherally). The infant with RSV bronchiolitis might appear air-hungry, exhibiting various degrees of
cyanosis and respiratory distress, including tachypnea,
retractions, accessory muscle use, grunting, and periods
of apnea. Cough and audible wheeze might be heard.
The infant might appear listless and disinterested in feeding, surroundings, or parents.
Auscultate the lungs, noting adventitious sounds and
determining the quality of aeration of the lung fields.
Earlier in the illness, wheezes might be heard scattered
throughout the lung fields. In more serious cases, the
chest might sound quiet and without wheeze. This is
attributed to significant hyperexpansion with very poor
air exchange.
Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests
Common laboratory and diagnostic studies ordered for
the assessment of RSV bronchiolitis include:
• Pulse oximetry: oxygen saturation might be significantly
• Chest x-ray: might reveal hyperinflation and patchy areas
of atelectasis or infiltration
• Blood gases: might show carbon dioxide retention and
• Nasal-pharyngeal washings: positive identification of RSV
can be made via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay
(ELISA) or immunofluorescent antibody (IFA) testing
Nursing Management
RSV infection is usually self-limited, and nursing diagnoses, goals, and interventions for the child with bronchiolitis are aimed at supportive care. Children with less
severe disease might require only antipyretics, adequate
hydration, and close observation. They can often be
successfully managed at home, provided the primary
caregiver is reliable and comfortable with close observation. Parents or caregivers should be educated to watch
for signs of worsening and must understand the importance of seeking care quickly should the child’s condition deteriorate.
Hospitalization is required for children with more
severe disease, and children admitted with RSV bronchiolitis warrant close observation. In addition to the nursing diagnoses and related interventions discussed in the
Nursing Care Plan for respiratory disorders, interventions
common to bronchiolitis follow.
Currently no safe and effective antiviral drug
is available for definitive treatment of RSV.
Aerosolized ribavirin is recommended only for
the highest-risk, most severely ill patients (Lauts,
2005). Routine antibiotic use is discouraged in RSV bronchiolitis
treatment because the secondary bacterial infection rate
of the lower airway is very low.
Maintaining Patent Airway
Infants and young children with RSV tend to have copious secretions. Position the child with the head of the bed
elevated to facilitate an open airway. These children often
require frequent assessment and suctioning to maintain a
patent airway (Lauts, 2005). Use a Yankauer or tonsil-tip
suction catheter to suction the mouth or pharynx of older
infants or children, rinsing the catheter after each suctioning. Nasal bulb suctioning may be sufficient to clear
the airway in some infants, while others will require
nasopharyngeal suctioning with a suction catheter. Nursing
Procedure 19.1 gives further information. The routine
use of sterile normal saline is not indicated in all children,
as its use has been demonstrated to result in decreased
oxygen saturations for up to 2 minutes after suctioning
is complete (Ridling et al., 2003). Adjust the pressure
ranges for suctioning infants and children between 60
and 100 mm Hg, 40 and 60 mm Hg for premature infants.
Promoting Adequate Gas Exchange
Infants and children with bronchiolitis might deteriorate
quickly as the disease progresses. In the child ill enough to
require oxygen, the risk is even greater. Assessment should
include work of breathing, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation. The percentage of inspired oxygen (FiO2) should
be adjusted as needed to maintain oxygen saturation within
the desired range. Positioning the infant with the head of
the bed elevated may also improve gas exchange. Frequent
assessment is necessary for the hospitalized child with
bronchiolitis (Cooper et al., 2003; Steiner, 2004).
In the tachypneic infant, slowing of the respiratory
rate does not necessarily indicate improvement:
often, a slower respiratory rate is an indication of
tiring, and carbon dioxide retention may soon be
followed by apnea.
Reducing Risk for Infection
Since RSV is easily spread through contact with droplets,
inpatients should be isolated according to hospital policy
to decrease the risk of nosocomial spread to other patients.
Patients with RSV can be safely cohorted. Attention to
hand washing is necessary, as droplets might enter the
eyes, nose, or mouth via the hands.
Providing Family Education
Educate parents to recognize signs of worsening distress.
Tell parents to call their physician or nurse practitioner if
the breathing is rapid or becomes more difficult or if the
child cannot eat secondary to tachypnea. Children who
are less than 1 year of age or who are at higher risk (those
who were born prematurely or who have chronic heart or
lung conditions) might have a longer course of illness.
Instruct parents that cough can persist for several days to
weeks after resolution of the disease, but infants usually
act well otherwise.
Preventing RSV Disease
Strict adherence to hand-washing policies in daycare
centers and when exposed to individuals with cold symptoms is important for all groups. Though generally benign
in healthy older children, RSV can be devastating in
young infants or children with pre-existing risk factors.
Palivizumab (Synagis) is a monoclonal antibody effective in the prevention of severe RSV disease in those who
are most susceptible. It is given as an intramuscular injection once a month throughout the RSV season. Though
quite costly, it is covered by most insurance policies and
Medicaid for those who qualify. It is generally indicated for
use in certain children less than 2 years of age. Qualifying
factors include:
• Prematurity
• Chronic lung disease (bronchopulmonary dysplasia)
requiring medication or oxygen
• Certain congenital heart diseases
• Immunocompromise (AAP, 2003)
Nursing Procedure 19.1
Nasopharyngeal or Artificial Airway Suction Technique
1. Check to ensure the suction equipment works
properly before starting.
2. After washing your hands, assemble the equipment
• Appropriate-size sterile suction catheter
• Sterile gloves
• Supplemental oxygen
• Sterile water-based lubricant
• Sterile normal saline if indicated
3. Don sterile gloves, keeping dominant hand sterile
and nondominant hand clean.
4. Preoxygenate the infant or child if indicated.
5. Apply lubricant to the end of the suction catheter.
6. If indicated for loosening of secretions, instill sterile
7. Maintaining sterile technique, insert the suction
catheter into the child’s nostril or airway.
• Insert only to the point of gagging if inserting via
the nostril.
• Insert only 0.5 cm further than the length of the
artificial airway.
8. Intermittently apply suction for no longer than
10 seconds, while twisting and removing the catheter.
9. Supplement with oxygen after suctioning.
More information related to recommendations
for Synagis use can be found at http://aappolicy.
Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lung parenchyma. It
can be caused by a virus, bacteria, mycoplasma, or fungus.
It may also result from aspiration of foreign material into the
lower respiratory tract (aspiration pneumonia). Pneumonia
occurs more often in winter and early spring. It is common
in children but is seen most frequently in infants and young
toddlers. Viruses are the most common cause of pneumonia in younger children and the least common cause in
older children (Table 19.2). Viral pneumonia is usually
better tolerated in children of all ages. Children with bacterial pneumonia are more apt to present with a toxic
appearance, but rapid recovery generally occurs if appropriate antibiotic treatment is instituted early.
Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) refers to
pneumonia in a previously healthy person that is
contracted outside of the hospital setting. CAP is
a common cause of lower respiratory infection in
North America (Ostapchuk et al., 2004).
Pneumonia is usually a self-limited disease. A child
who presents with recurrent pneumonia should be evaluated for chronic lung disease such as asthma or cystic
fibrosis. Potential complications of pneumonia include
bacteremia, pleural effusion, empyema, lung abscess,
and pneumothorax (Nield et al., 2005). Excluding bacteremia, these are often treated with thoracentesis and/
or chest tubes as well as antibiotics if appropriate.
Pneumatoceles (thin-walled cavities developing in the
lung) might occur with certain bacterial pneumonias
and usually resolve spontaneously over time.
Therapeutic management of children with less severe
disease includes antipyretics, adequate hydration, and
close observation. Even bacterial pneumonia can be suc-
cessfully managed at home if the work of breathing is not
severe and oxygen saturation is within normal limits.
However, hospitalization is required for children with
more severe disease. The child with tachypnea, significant
retractions, poor oral intake, or lethargy might require
hospital admission for the administration of supplemental oxygen, intravenous hydration, and antibiotics.
Haemophilus influenzae type B has been
nearly eliminated as a cause of pneumonia
in the United States and other developed
countries as a result of universal immunization
with Hib vaccine.
Pneumonia occurs as a result of the spread of infectious
organisms to the lower respiratory tract from either the
upper respiratory tract or the bloodstream. In bacterial
pneumonia, mucus stasis occurs as a result of vascular
engorgement. Cellular debris (erythrocytes, neutrophils,
and fibrin) accumulates in the alveolar space. Relative
hyperexpansion with air trapping follows. Inflammation
of the alveoli results in atelectasis. Atelectasis is defined
as a collapsed or airless portion of the lung, so gas exchange
becomes impaired. The inflammatory response further
impairs gas exchange (Nield et al., 2005).
Viral pneumonia usually results in an inflammatory
reaction limited to the alveolar wall. Aspiration of food,
fluids, or other substances into the bronchial tree can
result in aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration is the most
common cause of recurrent pneumonia in children and
often occurs as a result of gastroesophageal reflux disease
(Turcios & Patel, 2003). Secondary bacterial infection
often occurs following viral or aspiration pneumonia and
requires antibiotic treatment.
Nursing Assessment
For a full description of the assessment phase of the nursing process, refer to page 00. Assessment findings pertinent to pneumonia are discussed below.
Table 19.2 Common Causes of Pneumonia According to Age
Age Group
Most Common Causative Agents
1 to 3 months
RSV, other respiratory viruses (parainfluenza, influenza,
adenovirus); Streptococcus pneumoniae, Chlamydia
4 months to
5 years
Respiratory viruses, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Chlamydia
pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae
5 to 18 years
Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae,
Streptococcus pneumoniae
(Nield et al., 2005; Ostapchuk, 2004)
Health History
Elicit a description of the present illness and chief complaint. Note onset and progression of symptoms. Common
signs and symptoms reported during the health history
• Antecedent viral URI
• Fever
• Cough (note type and whether productive or not)
• Increased respiratory rate
• History of lethargy, poor feeding, vomiting, or diarrhea
in infants
• Chills, headache, dyspnea, chest pain, abdominal pain,
and nausea or vomiting in older children
Explore the child’s past and current medical history
for risk factors known to be associated with an increase in
the severity of pneumonia, such as:
• Prematurity
• Malnutrition
• Passive smoke exposure
• Low socioeconomic status
• Daycare attendance
• Underlying cardiopulmonary, immune, or nervous
system disease
Physical Examination
Physical examination consists of inspection, auscultation,
percussion, and palpation.
Observe the child’s general appearance and color (centrally and peripherally). Cyanosis might accompany
coughing spells. The child with bacterial pneumonia may
appear ill. Assess work of breathing. Children with pneumonia might exhibit substernal, subcostal, or intercostal
retractions. Tachypnea and nasal flaring may be present.
Describe cough and quality of sputum if produced.
Auscultation of the lungs might reveal wheezes or rales
in the younger child. Local or diffuse rales may be present
in the older child. Document diminished breath sounds.
Percussion and Palpation
In the older child, percussion might yield local dullness
over a consolidated area. Percussion is much less valuable
in the infant or younger child. Tactile fremitus felt upon
palpation may be increased with pneumonia.
Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests
Common laboratory and diagnostic studies ordered for
the assessment of pneumonia include:
• Pulse oximetry: oxygen saturation might be significantly
decreased or within normal range
• Chest x-ray: varies according to patient age and causative
agent. In infants and young children, bilateral air trap-
ping and perihilar infiltrates are the most common
findings. Patchy areas of consolidation might also be
present. In older children, lobar consolidation is seen
more frequently.
• Sputum culture: possibly useful in determining causative
bacteria in older children and adolescents
• White blood cell count: might be elevated in the case of
bacterial pneumonia
Nursing Management
Nursing diagnoses, goals, and interventions for the child
with pneumonia are primarily aimed at providing supportive care and education about the illness and its treatment.
Prevention of pneumococcal infection is also important.
Children with more severe disease will require hospitalization. Refer to the Nursing Care Plan on page 00 for nursing diagnoses and related interventions. In addition to
the interventions listed in the Nursing Care Plan, the following should be noted.
Providing Supportive Care
Ensure adequate hydration and assist in thinning of secretions by encouraging oral fluid intake in the child whose
respiratory status is stable. In children with increased
work of breathing, intravenous fluids may be necessary
to maintain hydration. Allow and encourage the child to
assume a position of comfort, usually with the head of
the bed elevated to promote aeration of the lungs. If
pain due to coughing or pneumonia itself is severe, administer analgesics as prescribed. Provide supplemental
oxygen to the child with respiratory distress or hypoxia
as needed.
Providing Family Education
Educate the family about the importance of adherence
to the prescribed antibiotic regimen. Antibiotics may be
given intravenously if the child is hospitalized, but upon
discharge or if the child is managed on an outpatient basis,
oral antibiotics will be used.
Teach the parents of a child with bacterial pneumonia to expect that following resolution of the acute illness,
for 1 to 2 weeks, the child might continue to tire easily
and the infant might continue to need small, frequent
feedings. Cough may also persist after the acute recovery
period but should lessen over time.
If the child is diagnosed with viral pneumonia, parents might not understand that their child does not
require an antibiotic. Pneumonia is often perceived by the
public as a bacterial infection, so most parents will need
an explanation related to treatment of viral infections. As
with bacterial pneumonia, the child may experience a
week or two of weakness or fatigue following resolution of
the acute illness.
The young child is at risk for the development of aspiration pneumonia. Parents need to understand that the
child might be at risk for injury related to his or her age and
developmental stage. To prevent recurrent or further aspiration, teach the parents the safety measures in Teaching
Guideline 19.3.
Reduce invasive pneumococcal infections.
Preventing Pneumococcal Infection
Children at high risk for severe pneumococcal infection
should be immunized against it. This includes all children between 0 and 23 months of age, as well as children
between 24 and 59 months of age with certain conditions
such as immune deficiency, sickle cell disease, asplenia,
chronic cardiac conditions, chronic lung problems, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, chronic renal insufficiency, diabetes
mellitus, and organ transplants. For additional information refer to Chapter 9. See Healthy People 2010.
• Provide accurate information to families
about pneumococcal
• Encourage pneumococcal immunization
per recommendations.
x-ray might show diffuse alveolar hyperinflation and
perihilar markings.
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the trachea and major
bronchi. It is often associated with a URI. Bronchitis is
usually viral in nature, though Mycoplasma pneumoniae
is also an important causative agent in children over
6 years of age. Recovery usually occurs within 5 to 10 days.
Therapeutic management involves mainly supportive
care. Expectorant administration and adequate hydration are important. If Mycoplasma is the cause, antibiotics are indicated (Orenstein, 2004).
Nursing Assessment
The illness might begin with a mild URI. Fever develops, followed by a dry, hacking cough that might become
productive in older children. The cough might wake the
child at night. Auscultation of the lungs might reveal
coarse rales. Respirations remain unlabored. The chest
Preventing Aspiration
• Keep toxic substances such as lighter fluid, solvents,
and hydrocarbons out of reach of young children.
Toddlers and preschoolers cannot distinguish safe
from unsafe fluids due to their developmental stage.
• Avoid oily nose drops and oil-based vitamins or home
remedies to avoid lipid aspiration into the lungs.
• Avoid oral feedings if the infant’s respiratory rate is 60
or greater to minimize the risk of aspiration of the
• Discourage parents from “force-feeding” in the event
of poor oral intake or severe illness to minimize the
risk of aspiration of the feeding.
• Position infants and ill children on their right side
after feeding to minimize the possibility of aspirating
emesis or regurgitated feeding.
Nursing Management
Nursing management is aimed at providing supportive
care. Teach parents that expectorants will help loosen
secretions and antipyretics will help reduce the fever,
making the child more comfortable. Encourage adequate hydration. Antibiotics are prescribed only in cases
believed to be bacterial in nature. Discourage the use of
cough suppressants: it is important for accumulated
sputum to be raised.
Tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease caused by
inhalation of droplets of Mycobacterium tuberculosis or
Mycobacterium bovis. Children usually contract the disease from an immediate household member. Annually
about 1,000 U.S. children contract active tuberculosis
disease (Reznik & Ozuah, 2005). Nonwhite children and
children with chronic illness or malnutrition are more
susceptible to infection. After exposure to an infected
individual, the incubation period is 2 to 10 weeks. The
inhaled tubercle bacilli multiply in the alveoli and alveolar ducts, forming an inflammatory exudate. The bacilli
are spread by the bloodstream and lymphatic system to
various parts of the body. Though pulmonary tuberculosis is the most common, children may also have infection
in other parts of the body, such as the gastrointestinal
tract or central nervous system (Starke & Munoz, 2004).
See Healthy People 2010.
In the case of drug-sensitive tuberculosis, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a 6-month course
of oral therapy. The first two months consist of isoniazid,
rifampin, and pyrazinamide given daily. This is followed
by twice-weekly isoniazid and rifampin; administration
must be observed directly (usually by a public health
nurse). In the case of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis,
ethambutol or streptomycin is given via intramuscular
injection (AAP, 2003).
Reduce tuberculosis.
Increase the proportion of
all tuberculosis patients
who complete curative
therapy within 12 months.
Increase the proportion of
contacts and other highrisk persons with latent
tuberculosis infection who
complete a course of
• Assess the health history
of all infants, children,
and adolescents for risk
factors for tuberculosis
• Provide tuberculosis
screening as recommended.
• Refer all tuberculosis
infections to the local
public health
• Educate families about
the importance of completing medication therapy as prescribed for
active and latent tuberculosis, and the need
for appropriate followup and retesting for
tuberculosis infection.
Nursing Assessment
Routine screening for tuberculosis infection is not recommended for low-risk individuals, but children considered to be at high risk for contracting tuberculosis should
be screened using the Mantoux test. Children considered
to be at high risk are those who:
• Are infected with HIV
• Are incarcerated or institutionalized
• Have a positive recent history of latent tuberculosis
• Are immigrants from or have a history of travel to
endemic countries
• Are exposed at home to HIV-infected or homeless persons, illicit drug users, migrant farm workers, or nursing home residents
Children with chronic illnesses (except HIV infection)
are not more likely to become infected with tuberculosis
but should receive special consideration and be screened
prior to initiation of immunosuppressant therapies (Reznik
& Ozuah, 2005).
The presentation of tuberculosis in children is quite
varied. Children can be asymptomatic or exhibit a broad
range of symptoms. Symptoms may include fever,
malaise, weight loss, anorexia, pain and tightness in the
chest, and rarely hemoptysis. Cough might or might not be
present and usually progresses slowly over several weeks
to months. As tuberculosis progresses, the respiratory rate
increases and the lung on the affected side is poorly
expanded. Dullness to percussion might be present, as well
as diminished breath sounds and crackles. Fever persists
and pallor, anemia, weakness, and weight loss are present.
Diagnosis is confirmed with a positive Mantoux test, positive gastric washings for acid-fast bacillus, and/or a chest
x-ray consistent with tuberculosis (Reznik & Ozuah, 2005).
Nursing Management
Hospitalization of children with tuberculosis is necessary
only for the most serious cases. Nursing management is
aimed at providing supportive care and encouraging
adherence to the treatment regimen. Most nursing care
for childhood tuberculosis is provided in outpatient clinics, schools, or a public health setting. Supportive care
includes ensuring adequate nutrition and adequate rest,
providing comfort measures such as fever reduction, preventing exposure to other infectious diseases, and preventing reinfection.
Providing Care for the Child with Latent
Tuberculosis Infection
Children who test positive for tuberculosis but who do
not have symptoms or radiographic/laboratory evidence
of disease are considered to have latent infection. These
children should be treated with isoniazid for 9 months
to prevent progression to active disease. Follow-up and
appropriate monitoring can be achieved via the child’s
primary care provider or local health department.
Preventing Infection
Tuberculosis infection is prevented by avoiding contact
with the tubercle bacillus. Thus, hospitalized children
with tuberculosis must be isolated according to hospital
policy to prevent nosocomial spread of tuberculosis infection. Promotion of natural resistance through nutrition,
rest, and avoidance of serious infections does not prevent
infection. Pasteurization of milk has helped to decrease
the transmission of Mycobacterium bovis. Administration
of bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine can provide
incomplete protection against tuberculosis and is not
widely used in the United States.
Acute Noninfectious Disorders
Acute noninfectious disorders include epistaxis, foreign
body aspiration, respiratory distress syndrome, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and pneumothorax.
Epistaxis (a nosebleed) occurs most frequently in children younger than adolescent age. Bleeding of the nasal
mucosa occurs most often from the anterior portion of
the septum. Epistaxis may be recurrent and idiopathic
(meaning there is no cause). The majority of cases are
benign, but in children with bleeding disorders or other
hematologic concerns, epistaxis should be further investigated and treated.
The child with recurrent epistaxis or epistaxis that
is difficult to control should be further evaluated
for underlying bleeding or platelet concerns.
Nursing Assessment
Explore the child’s history for initiating factors such as local
inflammation, mucosal drying, or local trauma (usually
nose picking). Inspect the nasal cavity for blood.
Nursing Management
The presence of blood often frightens children and their
parents. The nurse and parents should remain calm. The
child should sit up and lean forward (lying down may
allow aspiration of the blood). Apply continuous pressure
to the anterior portion of the nose by pinching it closed.
Encourage the child to breathe through the mouth during this portion of the treatment. Ice or a cold cloth
applied to the bridge of the nose may also be helpful. The
bleeding usually stops within 10 to 15 minutes. Apply
petroleum jelly or water-soluble gel to the nasal mucosa
with a cotton-tipped applicator to moisten the mucosa
and prevent recurrence.
include pneumonia or abscess formation, hypoxia, respiratory failure, and death (Orenstein, 2004).
Nursing Assessment
The infant or young child might present with a history of
sudden onset of cough, wheeze, or stridor. Stridor suggests that the foreign body is lodged in the upper airway.
Sometimes the onset of respiratory symptoms is much
more gradual. When the item has traveled down one of
the bronchi, then wheezing, rhonchi, and decreased aeration can be heard on the affected side. A chest x-ray will
demonstrate the foreign body only if it is radiopaque
(Fig. 19.10).
Nursing Management
The most important nursing intervention related to foreign body aspiration is prevention. Anticipatory guidance
for families with 6-month-olds should include a discussion of aspiration avoidance. This information should
be reiterated at each subsequent well-child visit through
age 5. Tell parents to avoid letting their child play with toys
with small parts and to keep coins and other small objects
out of the reach of children. Teach parents not to feed
peanuts and popcorn to their child until he or she is at least
3 years old. When children progress to table food, teach
parents to chop all foods so that they are small enough
to pass down the trachea should the child neglect to chew
them up thoroughly. Carrots, grapes, and hot dogs should
be cut into small pieces. Harmful liquids should be kept
out of the reach of children.
Foreign body aspiration occurs when any solid or liquid
substance is inhaled into the respiratory tract. It is common in infants and young children and can present in a
life-threatening manner (Qureshi & Mink, 2003). The
object may lodge in the upper or lower airway, causing
varying degrees of respiratory difficulty. Small, smooth
objects such as peanuts are the most frequently aspirated,
but any small toy, article, or piece of food smaller than
the diameter of the young child’s airway can potentially
be aspirated: popcorn, vegetables, hot dogs, fruit snacks,
coins, latex balloon pieces, pins, and pen caps are commonly seen (Qureshi & Mink, 2003).
Foreign body aspiration occurs most frequently in
children ages 6 months to 5 years. Children this age are
growing and developing rapidly. They tend to explore
things with their mouths and can easily aspirate small
The child often coughs out foreign bodies from the
upper airway. If the foreign body reaches the bronchus,
then it may need to be surgically removed via bronchoscopy. Postoperative antibiotics are used if an infection
is also present. Complications of foreign body aspiration
● Figure 19.10 Foreign body is noted in the
bronchus upon chest x-ray.
Items smaller than 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) can
be aspirated easily. A simple way for parents
to estimate the safe size of a small item or toy
piece is to gauge its size against a standard
toilet paper roll, which is generally about 1.5 inches in
Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is a respiratory disorder that is specific to neonates. It results from lung
immaturity and a deficiency in surfactant, so it is seen
most often in premature infants. Other infants who might
experience RDS include infants of diabetic mothers, those
delivered via cesarean section without preceding labor,
and those experiencing perinatal asphyxia. It is believed
that each of these conditions has an impact on surfactant
production, thus resulting in RDS in the term infant
(Stoll & Kliegman, 2004).
The administration of surfactant via endotracheal
tube shortly after delivery helps to decrease the incidence
and severity of RDS. Management of RDS focuses on
intensive respiratory care, usually with mechanical ventilation. Newer techniques for ventilatory support are also
available (Table 19.3).
The lack of surfactant in the affected newborn’s lungs
results in stiff, poorly compliant lungs with poor gas
exchange. Right-to-left shunting and hypoxemia result.
As the disease progresses, fluid and fibrin leak from the
pulmonary capillaries, causing hyaline membrane to form
in the bronchioles, alveolar ducts, and alveoli. Presence
of the membrane further decreases gas exchange. Com-
plications of RDS include air leak syndrome, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, patent ductus arteriosus and
congestive heart failure, intraventricular hemorrhage,
retinopathy of prematurity, necrotizing enterocolitis, complications resulting from intravenous catheter use (infection, thrombus formation), and developmental delay or
disability (Stoll & Kliegman, 2004).
Nursing Assessment
The onset of RDS is usually within several hours of
birth. The newborn exhibits signs of respiratory distress,
including tachypnea, retractions, nasal flaring, grunting,
and varying degrees of cyanosis. Auscultation reveals
fine rales and diminished breath sounds. If untreated,
RDS progresses to seesaw respirations, respiratory failure, and shock.
Nursing Management
Rarely, mucus plugging can occur in the neonate placed
on a ventilator after surfactant administration. Therefore,
close observation and assessment for adequate lung
expansion are critical. In addition to expert respiratory
intervention, other crucial nursing goals include maintenance of normothermia, prevention of infection, maintenance of fluid and electrolyte balance, and promotion of
adequate nutrition (parenterally or via gavage feeding).
Nursing care of the infant with RDS generally occurs in
the intensive care unit.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) occurs following a primary insult such as sepsis, viral pneumonia,
Table 19.3 Alternatives to Traditional Mechanical Ventilation
Additional Information
(high frequency,
oscillating, or jet)
Provide very high respiratory rates (up to
1,200 breaths per minute) and very
low tidal volumes
May decrease risk of barotrauma
associated with ventilator pressures
Nitric oxide
Causes pulmonary vasodilation, helping
to increase blood flow to alveoli
Safe; no long-term developmental risks
Liquid ventilation
Perfluorocarbon liquid acts as a
surfactant. Provides an effective
medium for gas exchange and
increases pulmonary function.
Virtually no reported physiologic sequelae
Blood is removed from body via catheter,
warmed and oxygenated in the
ECMO machine, and then returned
to infant.
Labor-intensive. Risk of bleeding is great.
smoke inhalation, or near-drowning. Acute onset of respiratory distress and hypoxemia occur within 72 hours
of the insult in infants and children with previously
healthy lungs. The alveolar–capillary membrane becomes
more permeable and pulmonary edema develops. Hyaline
membrane formation over the alveolar surfaces and
decreased surfactant production cause lung stiffness.
Mucosal swelling and cellular debris lead to atelectasis. Gas
diffusion is impaired significantly. ARDS can progress to
respiratory failure and death, though some individuals
recover completely or have residual lung disease.
Medical treatment is aimed at improving oxygenation and ventilation. Mechanical ventilation is used
with special attention to lung volumes and positive endexpiratory pressure (PEEP). Newer treatment modalities
show promise for improving outcomes of ARDS.
soothing the child’s fears. As the disease worsens and progresses, especially when ventilatory support is required,
psychological support of the family as well as education
about the intensive care unit procedures will be especially
Nursing Assessment
Nursing Assessment
Tachycardia and tachypnea occur over the first few hours
of the illness. Significantly increased work of breathing
with nasal flaring and retractions develops. Auscultate
for breath sounds, which might range from normal to
high-pitched crackles throughout the lung fields. Hypoxemia develops. Bilateral infiltrates can be seen on a
chest x-ray.
Primary pneumothorax (spontaneous) occurs most often
in adolescence. The infant or child with a pneumothorax
might have a sudden or gradual onset of symptoms.
Chest pain might be present as well as signs of respiratory
distress such as tachypnea, retractions, nasal flaring, or
grunting. Assess potential risk factors for acquiring a
pneumothorax, including chest trauma or surgery, intubation and mechanical ventilation, or a history of chronic
lung disease such as cystic fibrosis. Inspect the child for
a pale or cyanotic appearance. Auscultate for increased
heart rate (tachycardia) and absent or diminished breath
sounds on the affected side. The x-ray reveals air within
the thoracic cavity (Fig. 19.11).
Nursing Management
Nursing care of the child with ARDS is mainly supportive
and occurs in the intensive care unit. Closely monitor respiratory and cardiovascular status. Comfort measures such
as hygiene and positioning as well as pain and anxiety
management, maintenance of nutrition, and prevention of
infection are also key nursing interventions. The acute
phase of worsening respiratory distress can be frightening
for a child of any age, and the nurse can be instrumental in
A collection of air in the pleural space is called a pneumothorax. It can occur spontaneously in an otherwise
healthy child, or as a result of chronic lung disease, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, surgery, or trauma. Trapped
air consumes space within the pleural cavity, and the
affected lung suffers at least partial collapse. Needle aspiration and/or placement of a chest tube is used to evacuate
the air from the chest. Some small pneumothoraces resolve
independently, without intervention (Cunnington, 2002).
Nursing Management
The child with a pneumothorax requires frequent respiratory assessments. Pulse oximetry might be used as an
Tear in
Air in
pleural space
Chest tube
● Figure 19.11 Pneumothorax.
cockroach antigens, and molds. Seasonal allergic rhinitis
is caused by elevations in outdoor levels of allergens. It is
typically caused by certain pollens, trees, weeds, fungi,
and molds. Complications from allergic rhinitis include
exacerbation of asthma symptoms, recurrent sinusitis and
otitis media, and dental malocclusion.
adjunct, but clinical evaluation of respiratory status is most
useful. In some cases, administration of 100% oxygen hastens the reabsorption of air, but it is generally used only for
a few hours. If a chest tube connected to a water seal or
suction is present, provide care of the drainage apparatus
as appropriate (Fig. 19.12). A pair of hemostats should be
kept at the bedside to clamp the tube should it become
dislodged from the drainage container. The dressing
around the chest tube is occlusive and is not routinely
changed. If the tube becomes dislodged from the child’s
chest, apply Vaseline gauze and an occlusive dressing,
immediately perform appropriate respiratory assessment,
and notify the physician.
Allergic rhinitis is an intermittent or persistent inflammatory state that is mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE).
In response to contact with an airborne allergen protein,
the nasal mucosa mounts an immune response. The antigen (from the allergen) binds to a specific IgE on the
surface of mast cells, releasing the chemical mediators
of histamine and leukotrienes. The release of mediators
results in acute tissue edema and mucous production
(Banasiak & Meadows-Oliver, 2005). Late-phase mediators are released and more inflammation results. IgE
binds to receptors on the surfaces of mast cells and
basophils, creating the sensitization memory that causes
the reaction with subsequent allergen exposures. Allergen
exposure then results in mast cell degranulation and release
of histamine and other chemotactic factors. Histamine and
other factors cause nasal vasodilation, watery rhinorrhea,
and nasal congestion. Irritation of local nerve endings by
histamine produces pruritus and sneezing (Hagemann,
2005). Treatment of allergic rhinitis is aimed at decreasing response to these allergic mediators as well as treating inflammation.
Chronic Diseases
Chronic respiratory disorders include allergic rhinitis,
asthma, chronic lung disease (bronchopulmonary dysplasia), cystic fibrosis, and apnea.
Allergic rhinitis is a common chronic condition in childhood, affecting up to 40% of children (Hagemann, 2005).
Allergic rhinitis is associated with atopic dermatitis and
asthma, with as many as 80% of asthmatic children also
suffering from allergic rhinitis (Corren, 2000). Perennial
allergic rhinitis occurs year-round and is associated with
indoor environments. Allergens commonly implicated in
perennial allergic rhinitis include dust mites, pet dander,
Visceral pleura
From patient
To suction
source or air
To vent
room air
Water seal
2 cm
● Figure 19.12 The chest tube is connected to suction or water seal via a drainage container.
Nursing Assessment
For a full description of the assessment phase of the nursing process, refer to page 00. Assessment findings pertinent to allergic rhinitis are discussed below.
Health History
Elicit a description of the present illness and chief complaint. Common signs and symptoms reported during
the health history might include:
• Mild, intermittent to chronic nasal stuffiness
• Thin, runny nasal discharge
• Sneezing
• Itching of nose, eyes, palate
• Mouth breathing and snoring
Determine the seasonality of symptoms. Are they
perennial (year-round) or do they occur during certain
seasons? What types of medications or other treatments
have been used, and what was the child’s response?
Explore the history for the presence of risk factors
such as:
• Family history of atopic disease (asthma, allergic rhinitis,
or atopic dermatitis)
• Known allergy to dust mites, pet dander, cockroach antigens, pollens, or molds
• Early childhood exposure to indoor allergens
• Early introduction to foods or formula in infancy
• Exposure to tobacco smoke
• Environmental air pollution
• Recurrent viral infections
Nonwhite race and higher socioeconomic status have
also been noted as risk factors (Hagemann, 2005).
Physical Examination
Physical examination of the child with allergic rhinitis
includes inspection, observation, and auscultation.
Inspection and Observation
Observe the child’s facies for red-rimmed eyes or tearing,
mild eyelid edema, “allergic shiners” (bluish or grayish cast
beneath the eyes), and “allergic salute” (a transverse nasal
crease between the lower and middle thirds of the nose that
results from repeated nose rubbing) (Fig. 19.13). Inspect
the nasal cavity. The turbinates may be swollen and gray/
blue in color. Clear mucoid nasal drainage may be
observed. Inspect the skin for rash. Listen for nasal phonation with speech.
Auscultate the lungs for adequate aeration and clarity of
breath sounds. In the child who also has asthma, exacerbation with wheezing often occurs with allergic rhinitis.
Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests
The initial diagnosis is often made based on the history
and clinical findings. Common laboratory and diagnos-
● Figure 19.13 Allergic shiners beneath
the eyes and allergic salute across
the nose.
tic studies ordered for the assessment of allergic rhinitis
may include:
• Nasal smear (positive for eosinophilia)
• Positive allergy skin test
• Positive RAST
To distinguish between the causes of nasal congestion, refer to Comparison Chart 19.1 on page 00.
Nursing Management
In addition to the nursing diagnoses and related interventions discussed in the Nursing Care Plan for disorders
of the nose, mouth, and throat, interventions common to
allergic rhinitis follow.
Maintaining Patent Airway
The continual nasal obstruction that occurs with allergic rhinitis can be very problematic for some children.
Performing nasal washes with normal saline may keep the
nasal mucus from becoming thickened. Thickened, immobile secretions often lead to a secondary bacterial infection.
The nasal wash also decongests the nose, allowing for
improved nasal airflow. Anti-inflammatory (corticosteroid)
nasal sprays can help to decrease the inflammatory
response to allergens. A mast cell stabilizing nasal spray
such as cromolyn sodium may decrease the intensity and
frequency of allergic responses. Oral antihistamines are
now available in once-daily dosing, providing convenience for the family. Some children may benefit from a
combined antihistamine/nasal decongestant if nasal
congestion is significant. Leukotriene modifiers such as
montelukast may also be beneficial for some children
(Banasiak & Meadows-Oliver, 2005).
are available from a number of vendors, such as www.
Providing Family Education
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory airway disorder characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness, airway edema, and
mucus production. Airway obstruction resulting from
asthma might be partially or completely reversed. Severity
ranges from long periods of control with infrequent acute
exacerbations in some children to the presence of persistent daily symptoms in others (Kieckhefer & Ratcliffe,
2004). It is the most common chronic illness of childhood
and affects about 9 million American children (Kumar
et al., 2005). A small percentage of children with asthma
account for a large percentage of health care use and
expense (Wakefield et al., 2005). Asthma accounts for
about 12 million lost school days per year and a significant
number of lost workdays on the part of parents (Lara et al.,
2002). The incidence and severity of asthma are increasing; this might be attributed to increased urbanization,
increased air pollution, and more accurate diagnosis.
Severity ranges from symptoms associated only with
vigorous activity (exercise-induced bronchospasm) to
daily symptoms that interfere with quality of life. Though
uncommon, childhood death related to asthma is also on
the rise worldwide. Air pollution, allergens, family history, and viral infections might all play a role in asthma.
Many children with asthma also have gastroesophageal
disease, though the relationship between the two diseases
is not clearly understood.
Complications of asthma include chronic airway
remodeling, status asthmaticus, and respiratory failure.
Children with asthma are also more susceptible to serious
bacterial and viral respiratory infections.
Current goals of medical therapy are avoidance of
asthma triggers and reduction or control of inflammatory
episodes. Current recommendations by the National
Asthma Education and Prevention Program suggest a
stepwise approach to management as well as avoidance of
allergens. The stepwise approach involves increasing treatment as the child’s condition worsens, then backing off
treatment as he or she improves (Table 19.4). Leukotriene
modifiers have been found to be effective in the short-term
management of chronic asthma (Berkhof et al., 2003).
Long-term prevention usually involves inhaled steroids.
Bronchodilators may be used in the acute treatment of
bronchoconstriction or in the long-acting form to prevent bronchospasm. Exercise-induced bronchospasm may
occur in any child with asthma or as the only symptom in
the child with mild intermittent asthma. Most children
may avoid exercise-induced bronchospasm by using a
longer warm-up period prior to vigorous exercise and, if
necessary, inhaling a short-acting bronchodilator just prior
to exercise. See Healthy People 2010.
One of the most important tools in the treatment of
allergic rhinitis is learning to avoid known allergens.
Teaching Guideline 19.4 gives information on educating families about avoidance of allergens. Children may
be referred to a specialist for allergen desensitization
(allergy shots). Products helpful with control of allergies
Controlling Exposure to Allergens
• Avoid all exposure to tobacco smoke (this includes
• If parents cannot quit, they must not smoke inside the
home or car.
Dust Mites
• Use pillow and mattress covers.
• Wash sheets, pillowcases, and comforters once a week
in 130 degree F water.
• Use blinds rather than curtains in bedroom.
• Remove stuffed animals from bedroom.
• Reduce indoor humidity to <50%.
• Remove carpet from bedroom.
• Clean solid surface floors with wet mop each week.
Pet Dander
• Remove pets from home permanently.
• If unable to remove them, keep them out of bedroom
and off carpet and upholstered furniture.
• Keep kitchen very clean.
• Avoiding leaving out food or drinks.
• Use pesticides if necessary, but ensure that the asthmatic child is not inside the home when it is sprayed.
Indoor Molds
• Repair water leaks.
• Use dehumidifier to keep basement dry.
• Reduce indoor humidity to <50%.
Outdoor Molds, Pollen, and Air Pollution
• Avoid going outdoors when mold and pollen counts
are high.
• Avoid outdoor activity when pollution levels are high.
Table 19.4 Asthma Severity Classification and Treatment Approach
& Referral
Long-Term Control
Quick Relief
Step 1:
Mild intermittent
• One or two
times a week
• No symptoms
and normal
PEFR between
• Intensity of
varies, though
usually brief in
• Nighttime symptoms one or two
times a month
PEFR 80% or more
of predicted,
variability <20%
No daily medication needed
PRN symptoms
Step 2:
Mild persistent
(referral to asthma
should be
• Symptoms more
than twice a
week but less
than once a day
• Exacerbations
may affect
activity level.
• Nighttime
symptoms <2
times a month
PEFR 80% or more
of predicted,
with 20% to 30%
Daily antiinflammatory
inhaled corticosteroid)
(preferred) OR
cromolyn OR
PRN symptoms
Step 3:
persistent (referral
to asthma
• Daily symptoms
• Daily use of
inhaled shortacting beta2agonist
• Exacerbations
affect activity.
• Exacerbations 2
or more times a
week; may last
• Nighttime
symptoms >1
time a week
PEFR 60% to 80% of
predicted, with
variability >30%
Daily antiinflammatory
inhaled corticosteroid OR lowdose inhaled
AND longacting
PRN symptoms
up to TID
Step 4:
Severe persistent
(referral to
asthma specialist
• Continual
• Limited physical
• Frequent
• Frequent
PEFR 60% or less of
predicted, with
variability >30%
Daily antiinflammatory
medicine (highdose inhaled
and longacting
May need
PRN symptoms
up to TID
PEFR, peak expiratory flow rate.
Adapted from National Asthma Education and Prevention Program. (1997, July). Expert panel
report 2: Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma (NIH Publication No.
97-4051) and (2002). Update on selected topics. (Publication No. 02-5075). Bethesda, MD:
National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. These recommendations are intended to be used as a guide in individualized asthma care.
Reduce asthma deaths,
hospitalizations for
asthma, and hospital
emergency department
visits for asthma.
• Provide appropriate
education and triage to
families of children with
asthma, particularly
when the child is experiencing symptoms
or a decreased peak
flow rate.
Currently many manufacturers use chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) as the propellant in metereddose inhalers. In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration announced that these types of
inhaler would be phased out of the market by the end of
2008. Environmentally friendly formulations of hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) will be used in all metered-dose inhalers by
that time (Bederka, 2006).
function changes, and airway smooth muscle responsiveness increases (Kiecheter & Ratcliffe, 2004). As a result,
acute bronchoconstriction, airway edema, and mucus
plugging occur (Fig. 19.14).
In most children, this process is considered reversible
and until recently it was not considered to have longstanding effects on lung function. Current research and
scientific thought, however, recognize the concept of airway remodeling. Airway remodeling occurs as a result of
chronic inflammation of the airway. Following the acute
response to a trigger, continued allergen response results
in a chronic phase. During this phase, the epithelial cells
are denuded and the influx of inflammatory cells into the
airway continues. This results in structural changes of the
airway that are irreversible, and further loss of pulmonary
function might occur (Kiecheter & Ratcliffe, 2004).
Nursing Assessment
For a full description of the assessment phase of the nursing process, refer to page 00. Assessment findings pertinent
to asthma are discussed below.
Health History
In asthma, the inflammatory process contributes to increased airway activity. Thus, control or prevention of
inflammation is the core of asthma management. Asthma
results from a complex variety of responses in relation to a
trigger. When the process begins, mast cells, T lymphocytes, macrophages, and epithelial cells are involved in the
release of inflammatory mediators. Eosinophils and neutrophils migrate to the airway, causing injury. Chemical
mediators such as leukotrienes, bradykinin, histamine, and
platelet-activating factor also contribute to the inflammatory response. The presence of leukotrienes contributes
to prolonged airway constriction (Banasiak & MeadowsOliver, 2005). Autonomic neural control of airway tone is
affected, airway mucus secretion is increased, mucociliary
● Figure 19.14 Note airway
edema, mucus production, and
bronchospasm occurring with
Normal airway
Elicit a description of the present illness and chief complaint. Common signs and symptoms reported during the
health history might include:
• Cough, particularly at night: hacking type of cough that
is initially nonproductive, becoming productive of frothy
• Difficulty breathing: shortness of breath, chest tightness
or pain, dyspnea with exercise
• Wheezing
Explore the child’s current and past medical history
for risk factors such as:
• History of allergic rhinitis or atopic dermatitis
• Family history of atopy (asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic
Airway with inflammation
Airway with inflammation,
and mucus production
• Recurrent episodes diagnosed as wheezing, bronchiolitis,
or bronchitis
• Known allergies
• Seasonal response to environmental pollen
• Tobacco smoke exposure (passive or self-smoking)
• Poverty
Physical Examination
Physical examination of the child with asthma includes
inspection, auscultation, and percussion.
Observe the patient’s general appearance and color.
During mild exacerbations, the child’s color might remain
pink, but as the child worsens, cyanosis might result. Work
of breathing is variable. Some children present with mild
retractions, while others demonstrate significant accessory
muscle use and eventually head-bobbing if not effectively
treated. The child may appear anxious and fearful or be
lethargic and irritable. An audible wheeze might be present. Children with persistent severe asthma may have a
barrel chest and routinely demonstrate mildly increased
work of breathing.
Auscultation and Percussion
A thorough assessment of lung fields is necessary.
Wheezing is the hallmark of airway obstruction and might
vary throughout the lung fields. Coarseness might also be
present. Assess the adequacy of aeration. Breath sounds
might be diminished in the bases or throughout. A quiet
chest in an asthmatic child can be an ominous sign. With
severe airway obstruction, air movement can be so poor
that wheezes might not be heard upon auscultation.
Percussion may yield hyperresonance.
Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests
Laboratory and diagnostic studies commonly ordered for
the assessment of asthma include:
• Pulse oximetry: oxygen saturation may be significantly
decreased or normal during a mild exacerbation
• Chest x-ray: usually reveals hyperinflation
• Blood gases: might show carbon dioxide retention and
• Pulmonary function tests (PFTs): can be very useful in
determining the degree of disease but are not useful during an acute attack. Children as young as 5 or 6 years
might be able to comply with spirometry.
• Peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR): is decreased during
an exacerbation
• Allergy testing: skin test or RAST can determine allergic triggers for the asthmatic child
Nursing Management
Initial nursing management of the child with an acute
exacerbation of asthma is aimed at restoring a clear air42
way and effective breathing pattern as well as promoting
adequate oxygenation and ventilation (gas exchange).
Refer to the Nursing Care Plan on page 00. Additional
considerations are reviewed below.
Educating the Child and Family
Asthma is a chronic illness and needs to be understood as
such. Figure 19.15 displays the “Kids with Asthma Bill
of Rights” developed by the American Lung Association.
Teach families of children with asthma, and the children
themselves, how to care for the disease. Symptom-free
periods (often very long) are interspersed with episodes of
exacerbation. Parents and children often do not understand the importance of maintenance medications for
long-term control. They may view the episodes of exacerbation (sometimes requiring hospitalization or emergency
room visits) as an acute illness and are simply relieved when
they are over. Frequently during the periods between
acute episodes, children are viewed as disease-free and
long-term maintenance schedules are abandoned. The
prolonged inflammatory process occurring in the absence
of symptoms, primarily in children with moderate to
severe asthma, can lead to airway remodeling and eventual irreversible disease.
To provide appropriate education to the child and
family, determine the severity of the asthma as outlined
in the NAEPP Expert Panel Report: Guidelines for the
Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (Kumar et al.,
2005). Stress the concept of maintenance medications for
the prevention of future serious disease in addition to controlling or preventing current symptoms.
Educate families and children on the appropriate use
of nebulizers, metered-dose inhalers, spacers, dry-powder
inhalers, and Diskus, as well as the purposes, functions,
and side effects of the medications they deliver. Require
return demonstration of equipment use to ensure that
children and families can use the equipment properly
(Teaching Guideline 19.5).
The NAEPP recommends use of a spacer or holding
chamber with metered-dose inhalers to increase
the bioavailability of medication in the lungs.
Each child should have a management plan in place
to determine when to step up or step down treatment.
The recommendations for treatment based on severity of
asthma are listed in Table 19.4. Figure 19.16 provides an
example of a written format that may be helpful to families in the management of asthma. This written action
plan should also be kept on file at the child’s school, and
relief medication should be available to the child at all
times. Children who experience exercise-induced bronchospasm may still participate in physical education or
athletics but may need to be allowed to use their medicine before the activity.
(text continues on page 000)
● Figure 19.15 The Asthma Bill of Rights.
Using Asthma Medication Delivery Devices
• Plug in the
nebulizer and
connect the air
• Add the medication
to the medicine cup.
• Attach the
mask or the
and hose to the
medicine cup.
• Place the mask
on the child OR
• Instruct the
child to close
the lips around
the mouthpiece
and breathe
through the
• After use, wash
the mouthpiece
and medicine
cup with water
and allow to
air dry.
1 9 . 5 (Continued)
Using Asthma Medication Delivery Devices
Metered-Dose Inhaler
• Shake the
inhaler and
take off the cap.
• Attach the inhaler
to the spacer or
holding chamber.
• Breathe out
• Put the spacer
mouthpiece in
the mouth (or
place the mask
over the child’s
nose and mouth,
ensuring a good
• Compress the
inhaler and inhale
slowly and deeply.
Hold the breath
for a count of 10.
• Hold the
Diskus in a
position in one
hand and push
the thumbgrip
with the thumb
of your other
hand away
from you until
is exposed.
• Push the lever
until it clicks
(the dose is
now loaded).
• Place your
mouth securely
around the
and breathe in
fully and
quickly through
your mouth.
• Remove the
Diskus, hold
the breath for
10 seconds,
and then
breathe out.
• Breathe out fully.
1 9 . 5 (Continued)
Using Asthma Medication Delivery Devices
• Hold the
upright. Load
the dose by
twisting the
brown grip fully
to the right.
• Then twist it to the
left until you hear
it click.
• Holding the
place the mouth
firmly around
the mouthpiece
and inhale deeply
and forcefully.
• Remove the
Turbuhaler from
the mouth and
then breathe out.
Young children with asthma receiving inhaled medications
via a nebulizer should use a snugly fitting mask to ensure
accurate deposition of medication to the lungs. “Blow-by”
via nebulizer should be discouraged, as medication delivery
is variable and unreliable.
In addition to the presence or absence of symptoms,
the NAEPP recommends the use of the peak expiratory
flow rate (PEFR) to determine daily control. PEFR measurements obtained via a home peak flow meter can be
very helpful as long as the meter is used appropriately
(Teaching Guideline 19.6 gives instructions on peak flow
meter use). The child’s “personal best” is determined collaboratively with the health care practitioner during a
symptom-free period. PEFR is measured daily at home
using the peak flow meter. The asthma management plan
then gives specific instructions based on the PEFR measurement (Table 19.5).
Avoidance of allergens is another key component of
asthma management. Avoiding known triggers helps to
prevent exacerbations as well as long-term inflammatory
changes. This can be a difficult task for most families, particularly if the affected child suffers from several allergies.
Teaching Guideline 19-4 outlines strategies for allergen
• Breathe out fully.
Research has found a lag in parent/child education in
relation to asthma management (Horner, 2004). Asthma
education is not limited to the hospital or clinic setting.
Nurses can become involved in community asthma education: community-centered education in schools, churches,
and daycare centers or through peer educators has been
shown to be effective. Education should include pathophysiology, asthma triggers, and prevention and treatment strategies. With such a large number of children
affected with this chronic disease, community education
has the potential to make a broad impact. See Healthy
People 2010.
School nurses must also become experts in asthma
management as well as being committed to ongoing education of the child and family (Sander, 2002). Resources
for schools include:
• Open Airways for Schools is an educational program
presented by the American Lung Association or its local
chapter, focusing on increasing asthma awareness and
compliance with asthma action plans and decreasing
asthma emergencies. Contact the local lung association
or call 1-800-LUNG-USA.
• Asthma and Allergies at School is a kit available from
AANMA at www.breatherville.org/schoolhouse or
• Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool is available at http://www.epa.gov/schools/.
● Figure 19.16 Asthma Action Plan.
Using a Peak Flow Meter
• Slide the arrow down to “zero.”
• Stand up straight.
• Take a deep breath and close the lips tightly around
the mouthpiece.
• Blow out hard and fast.
• Note the number the arrow moves to.
• Repeat three times and record the highest reading.
• Keep a record of daily readings, being sure to measure
peak flow at the same time each day.
Data from the American Lung Association.
Reduce activity limitations among persons with
asthma. (Developmental)
Reduce the number of
school or workdays
missed by persons with
asthma. Increase the
proportion of persons
with asthma who receive
formal patient education, including information about community
and self-help resources,
as an essential part of
the management of their
Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the
need for medications in children with asthma as
well as the frequency of asthma exacerbations.
Both indoor air quality and environmental pollution contribute to asthma in children.
• Encourage appropriate
physical activity in
children with asthma.
• Provide extensive
education to children
and families about
peak flow meter use
and its meaning, maintenance and rescue
medications, symptoms
of asthma exacerbation, and a written plan
for how to “step up”
and “step down”
asthma management.
• Refer children and their
families to local asthma
or Internet resources
and support groups.
• Refer families to formal
classes on asthma
Promoting the Child’s Self-Esteem
Fear of an exacerbation and feeling “different” from other
children can harm a child’s self-esteem. In qualitative
research studies, children have made such statements as
“my body shuts down” and “I feel like I’m going to
die” (Yoos et al., 2005). The fatigue and fear associated
with chronic asthma may reduce the child’s confidence
and sense of control over his or her body and life. In
addition to coping with a chronic illness, the asthmatic
child often also has to cope with school-related issues.
Moodiness, acting out, and withdrawal correlate with
increases in school absence, which can contribute to
poor school performance. To live in fear of an exacerbation or to be unable to participate in activities affects
the child’s self-esteem.
Through education and support, the child can gain a
sense of control. Children need to learn to master their
disease. Accurate evaluation of asthma symptoms and
Table 19.5 Assessment of Peak Expiratory Flow Rate (PEFR)
Good control
>80% personal
Take usual
Yellow: Caution
50% to 80%
Possibly present
Take short-acting
inhaled beta2agonist right away.
Talk to your health
care provider.
Medical alert
<50% personal
Usually present
Take short-acting
inhaled beta2agonist right
away. Go to office
or emergency
*The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program recommended the “traffic light”
approach for educating individuals on PEFRs and management plans.
improvement of self-esteem may help the child to experience less panic with an acute episode. Improved selfesteem might also help the child cope with the disease in
general and with being different from his or her peers.
The school-age child has the cognitive ability to begin taking responsibility for asthma management, with continued involvement on the part of the parents. Transferring
control of asthma care to the child is an important developmental process that will contribute to the child’s feeling of control over the illness (Buford, 2004).
Nursing Assessment
Promoting Family Coping
Nursing Management
Parent denial is an issue in many families. The family,
through education and encouragement, can become the
experts on the child’s illness as well as advocates for the
child’s well-being. The resilient child is better able to
cope with difficulties presented to him or her, including
asthma. Cohesiveness and warmth in the family environment can improve a child’s resiliency as well as contribute to family hardiness. Parents need to be allowed
to ask questions and voice their concerns. A nurse who
understands the family’s issues and concerns is better
able to plan for support and education. Provide culturally sensitive education and interventions that focus on
increasing the family’s commitment to and control of
asthma management. As the child and parents become
confident in their ability to recognize asthma symptoms
and cope with asthma and its periodic episodes, the
family’s ability to cope will improve (Svavarsdottir &
Rayens, 2005).
If the infant is oxygen dependent, provide education to
the parents about oxygen tanks, nasal cannula use, pulse
oximetry use, and nebulizer treatments. Often these
children require increased-calorie formulas to grow
adequately. Fluid restrictions and/or diuretics are necessary in some infants. Follow-up echocardiograms might be
used to determine resolution of pulmonary artery hypertension prior to weaning from oxygen. Encourage developmentally appropriate activities. It might be difficult for
the oxygen-dependent infant or toddler to reach gross
motor milestones or explore the environment because the
length of his oxygen tubing limits him or her.
Parental support is also a key nursing intervention.
After a long and trying period of ups and downs with
their newborn in the intensive care unit, parents find
themselves exhausted caring for their medically fragile
infant at home.
Chronic lung disease (formerly termed bronchopulmonary
dysplasia [BPD]) is often diagnosed in infants who
have experienced RDS and continue to require oxygen
at 28 days of age. It is a chronic respiratory condition
seen most commonly in premature infants. It results from
a variety of factors, including pulmonary immaturity,
acute lung injury, barotrauma, inflammatory mediators,
and volutrauma. Epithelial stretching, macrophage and
polymorphonuclear cell invasion, and airway edema affect
the growth and development of lung structures. Cilia loss
and airway lining denudation reduce the normal cleansing
abilities of the lung. The number of normal alveoli is
reduced by one third to one half. Lower birthweights,
white race, and male gender pose increased risk for development of chronic lung disease. Complications include
pulmonary artery hypertension, cor pulmonale, congestive
heart failure, and severe bacterial or viral pneumonia.
(Harvey, 2004; Stoll & Kliegman, 2004).
Anti-inflammatory inhaled medications are used for
maintenance, and short-acting bronchodilators are used
as needed for wheezing episodes. Supplemental long-term
oxygen therapy may be required in some infants.
Tachypnea and increased work of breathing are characteristic of chronic lung disease. After discharge from the
NICU, these symptoms can continue. Exertion such as
activity or oral feeding can cause dyspnea to worsen.
Failure to thrive might also be evident. Auscultation might
reveal breath sounds that are diminished in the bases.
These infants have reactive airway episodes, so wheezing
might be present during times of exacerbation. If fluid
overload develops, rales may be heard.
Cystic fibrosis is an autosomal recessive disorder that
occurs about once in every 3,300 live white births and
about once in every 16,000 live black births (Boat, 2004).
A deletion occurring on the long arm of chromosome 7
at the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR) is
the responsible gene mutation. DNA testing can be used
prenatally and in newborns to identify the presence of
the mutation. The American College of Obstetrics and
Gynecology currently recommends screening for cystic
fibrosis to any person seeking preconception or prenatal
care. At present, 11 states include testing for cystic fibrosis as part of newborn screening (Gross, 2004).
Cystic fibrosis is the most common debilitating disease
of childhood among those of European descent. Medical
advances in recent years have greatly increased the length
and quality of life for affected children: about 50% now live
past the age of 30 years (Boat, 2004), and many live a highquality life into their 40s (Carpenter & Narsavage, 2004).
Complications include hemoptysis, pneumothorax, bacterial colonization, cor pulmonale, volvulus, intussusception,
intestinal obstruction, rectal prolapse, gastroesophageal
reflux disease, diabetes, portal hypertension, liver failure,
gallstones, and decreased fertility.
Therapeutic Management
Therapeutic management of cystic fibrosis is aimed toward
minimizing pulmonary complications, maximizing lung
function, preventing infection, and facilitating growth. All
children with cystic fibrosis who have pulmonary involvement require chest physiotherapy with postural drainage
several times daily to mobilize secretions from the lungs.
Physical exercise is encouraged. Recombinant human
DNase (Pulmozyme) is given daily using a nebulizer to
decrease sputum viscosity and help clear secretions.
Inhaled bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory agents are
prescribed for some children. Aerosolized antibiotics are
often prescribed and may be given at home as well as in the
hospital. Choice of antibiotic is determined by sputum culture and sensitivity results. Pancreatic enzymes and supplemental fat-soluble vitamins are prescribed to promote
adequate digestion and absorption of nutrients and optimize nutritional status. Increased-calorie, high-protein
diets are recommended, and sometimes supplemental
high-calorie formula, either orally or via feeding tube, is
needed. Some children require total parenteral nutrition
to maintain or gain weight (McMullen, 2004). Lung
transplantation has been successful in some children with
cystic fibrosis.
In cystic fibrosis, the CFTR mutation causes alterations in
epithelial ion transport on mucosal surfaces, resulting in
generalized dysfunction of the exocrine glands. The epithelial cells fail to conduct chloride, and water transport
abnormalities occur. This results in thickened, tenacious
secretions in the sweat glands, gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, respiratory tract, and other exocrine tissues. The increased viscosity of these secretions makes them difficult
to clear. The sweat glands produce a larger amount of
chloride, leading to a salty taste of the skin and alterations
in electrolyte balance and dehydration. The pancreas,
intrahepatic bile ducts, intestinal glands, gallbladder, and
submaxillary glands become obstructed by viscous mucus
and eosinophilic material. Pancreatic enzyme activity is
lost and malabsorption of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
occurs, resulting in poor growth and large, malodorous
stools. Excess mucus is produced by the tracheobronchial
glands. Abnormally thick mucus plugs the small airways,
and then bronchiolitis and further plugging of the airways
occur. Secondary bacterial infection with Staphylococcus
aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Burkholderia cepacia
often occurs. This contributes to obstruction and inflammation, leading to chronic infection, tissue damage, and
respiratory failure. Nasal polyps and recurrent sinusitis
are common. Boys have tenacious seminal fluid and experience blocking of the vas deferens, often making them
infertile. In girls, thick cervical secretions might limit penetration of sperm (Boat, 2004; Simpson & Ivey, 2005).
Table 19.6 gives further details of the pathophysiology and
resulting respiratory and gastrointestinal clinical manifestations of cystic fibrosis.
Nursing Assessment
For a full description of the assessment phase of the nursing process, refer to page 00. Assessment findings pertinent to cystic fibrosis are discussed below.
Health History
Elicit a description of the present illness and chief complaint. Common signs and symptoms reported during the
health history in the undiagnosed child might include:
• A salty taste to the child’s skin (resulting from excess
chloride loss via perspiration)
• Meconium ileus or late, difficult passage of meconium
stool in the newborn period
• Abdominal pain or difficulty passing stool (infants or
toddlers might present with intestinal obstruction or
intussusception at the time of diagnosis)
• Bulky, greasy stools
• Poor weight gain and growth despite good appetite
• Chronic or recurrent cough and/or upper or lower respiratory infections
Children known to have cystic fibrosis are often
admitted to the hospital for pulmonary exacerbations
or other complications of the disease. The health history
should include questions related to:
• Respiratory status: has cough, sputum production, or
work of breathing increased?
• Appetite and weight gain
• Activity tolerance
• Increased need for pulmonary or pancreatic medications
• Presence of fever
• Presence of bone pain
• Any other changes in physical state or medication regimen
Physical Examination
The physical examination includes inspection, auscultation, percussion, and palpation.
Observe the child’s general appearance and color. Check
the nasal passages for polyps. Note respiratory rate, work
of breathing, use of accessory muscles, position of comfort,
frequency and severity of cough, and quality and quantity
of sputum produced. The child with cystic fibrosis often
has a barrel chest (anterior–posterior diameter approximates transverse diameter) (Fig. 19.17). Clubbing of the
nail beds might also be present. Note whether rectal prolapse is present. Does the child appear small or thin for his
or her age? The child might have a protuberant abdomen
and thin extremities, with decreased amounts of subcutaneous fat present. Observe for the presence of edema (sign
of cardiac or liver failure). Note distended neck veins or the
presence of a heave (signs of cor pulmonale).
Table 19.6 Pathophysiology of Cystic Fibrosis and Resultant Respiratory
and Gastrointestinal Clinical Manifestations
Defect in the
Clinical Manifestations
• Infection leads to neutrophilic inflammation.
• Cleavage of complement receptors and
immunoglobin G leads to opsonophagocytosis failure.
• Chemoattractant interleukin-8 and elastin
degradase contribute to inflammatory
• Thick, tenacious sputum that is chronically
colonized with bacteria results.
• Air trapping related to airway obstruction
• Pulmonary parenchyma is eventually
• Airway obstruction
• Difficulty clearing secretions
• Respiratory distress and impaired gas
• Chronic cough
• Barrel-shaped chest
• Decreased pulmonary function
• Clubbing
• Recurrent pneumonia
• Hemoptysis
• Pneumothorax
• Chronic sinusitis
• Nasal polyps
• Cor pulmonale (right-sided heart failure)
• Decreased chloride and water secretion
into the intestine (causing dehydration of
the intestinal material) and into the bile
ducts (causing increased bile viscosity)
• Reduced pancreatic bicarbonate
• Hypersecretion of gastric acid
• Insufficiency of pancreatic enzymes
necessary for digestion and absorption
• Pancreas secretes thick mucus.
• Meconium ileus
• Retention of fecal matter in distal intestine,
resulting in vomiting, abdominal distention
and cramping, anorexia, right lower
quadrant pain
• Sludging of intestinal contents may lead to
fecal impaction, rectal prolapse, bowel
obstruction, intussusception.
• Obstructive cirrhosis with esophageal
varices, and splenomegaly
• Gallstones
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease
(compounded by postural drainage with
chest physiotherapy)
• Inadequate protein absorption
• Altered absorption of iron and vitamins A,
D, E, and K
• Failure to thrive
• Hyperglycemia and development of
diabetes later in life
Auscultation may reveal a variety of adventitious breath
sounds. Fine or coarse crackles and scattered or localized
wheezing might be present. With progressive obstructive
pulmonary involvement, breath sounds might be diminished. Tachycardia might be present. Note the presence
of a gallop (might occur with cor pulmonale). Note the
adequacy of bowel sounds.
Palpation might yield a finding of asymmetric chest
excursion if atelectasis is present. Tactile fremitus may
be decreased over areas of atelectasis. Note if tenderness
is present over the liver (might be an early sign of cor
Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests
Common laboratory and diagnostic studies ordered for
the diagnosis and assessment of cystic fibrosis include:
Percussion over the lung fields usually yields hyperresonance due to air trapping. Diaphragmatic excursion might
be decreased. Percussion of the abdomen might reveal
dullness over an enlarged liver or mass related to intestinal
• Sweat chloride test: considered suspicious if the level of
chloride in collected sweat is above 50 mEq/L and diagnostic if the level is above 60 mEq/L (Fig. 19.18)
• Pulse oximetry: oxygen saturation might be decreased,
particularly during a pulmonary exacerbation
related interventions discussed in the Nursing Care Plan
Overview for respiratory disorders, interventions common
to cystic fibrosis follow.
Maintaining Patent Airway
Cross section
of thorax
Normal chest
Barrel chest
● Figure 19.17 (A) Normal chest shape—transverse
diameter > anterior-posterior diameter. (B) Barrel
chest—transverse diameter = anterior-posterior
• Chest x-ray: may reveal hyperinflation, bronchial wall
thickening, atelectasis, or infiltration
• Pulmonary function tests: might reveal a decrease in
forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume, with
increases in residual volume (Boat, 2004; McMullen,
Nursing Management
Management of cystic fibrosis focuses on minimizing pulmonary complications, promoting growth and development, and facilitating coping and adjustment of the child
and family. In addition to the nursing diagnoses and
● Figure 19.18 Sweat chloride test.
Chest physiotherapy is often used as an adjunct therapy in
respiratory illnesses, but for children with cystic fibrosis it
is a critical intervention. Chest physiotherapy involves percussion, vibration, and postural drainage, and either it or
another bronchial hygiene therapy must be performed several times a day to assist with mobilization of secretions.
Nursing Procedure 19.2 gives instructions on the chest
physiotherapy technique.
For older children and adolescents, the flutter-valve
device, positive expiratory pressure therapy, or a highfrequency chest compression vest may also be used. The
flutter valve device provides high-frequency oscillation to
the airway as the child exhales into a mouthpiece that
contains a steel ball. Positive expiratory pressure therapy
involves exhaling through a flow resistor, which creates
positive expiratory pressure. The cycles of exhalation are
repeated until coughing yields expectoration of secretions.
The vest airway clearance system provides high-frequency
chest wall oscillation to increase airflow velocity to create
repetitive cough-like shear forces and to decrease the viscosity of secretions (Goodfellow & Jones, 2002). Breathing
exercises are also helpful in promoting mucus clearance.
Encourage physical exercise, as it helps to promote mucus
secretion as well as providing cardiopulmonary conditioning. Ensure that Pulmozyme is administered, as well as
inhaled bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory agents if
Preventing Infection
Vigorous pulmonary hygiene for mobilization of secretions
is critical to prevent infection. Aerosolized antibiotics can
be given at home as well as in the hospital. Children with
frequent or severe respiratory exacerbations might require
lengthy courses of intravenous antibiotics.
Maintaining Growth
Pancreatic enzymes must be administered with all meals
and snacks to promote adequate digestion and absorption
of nutrients. The number of capsules required depends on
the extent of pancreatic insufficiency and the amount of
food being ingested. The dosage can be adjusted until an
adequate growth pattern is established and the number of
stools is consistent at one or two per day. Children will
need additional enzyme capsules when high-fat foods are
being eaten. In the infant or young child, the enzyme capsule can be opened and sprinkled on cereal or applesauce.
A well-balanced, high-calorie, high-protein diet is necessary to ensure adequate growth. Some children require
up to 1.5 times the recommended daily allowance of
calories for children their age. A number of commercially
available nutritional formulas and shakes are available for
diet supplementation.
Nursing Procedure 19.2
Performing Chest Physiotherapy
1. Provide percussion via a cupped hand or an infant
percussion device. Appropriate percussion yields a
hollow sound (not a slapping sound).
2. Percuss each segment of the lung for 1 to 2 minutes.
UPPER LOBES, Apical segments
POSITION #1, for infants
UPPER LOBES, Apical segments
Nursing Procedure 19.2
Performing Chest Physiotherapy (continued)
UPPER LOBES, Posterior segments
UPPER LOBES, Anterior segments
LOWER LOBES, Anterior basal segments
LOWER LOBES, Posterior basal segments
Nursing Procedure 19.2
Performing Chest Physiotherapy (continued)
LOWER LOBES, Lateral basal segments
3. Place the ball of the hand on the lung segment, keeping the arm and shoulder straight. Vibrate by tensing
and relaxing your arms during the child’s exhalation.
Vibrate each lung segment for at least five exhalations.
In infants, breastfeeding should be continued with
enzyme administration. Some infants will require fortification of breast milk or supplementation with high-calorie
formulas. Commercially available infant formulas can
continue to be used for the formula-fed infant and can
be mixed to provide a larger amount of calories if necessary. Supplementation with vitamins A, D, E, and K is
necessary. Administer gavage feedings or total parenteral
nutrition as prescribed to provide for adequate growth.
Promoting Family Coping
Cystic fibrosis is a serious chronic illness that requires intervention on a daily basis. It can be hard to maintain a schedule that requires pulmonary hygiene several times daily as
well as close attention to appropriate diet and enzyme supplementation. Adjusting to the demands that the illness
places on the child and family is difficult. Continual ongoing adjustments within the family must occur. Children
are frequently hospitalized, and this may place an additional strain on the family and its finances. Children with
cystic fibrosis may express fear or feelings of isolation, and
siblings may be worried or jealous (Carpenter & Narsavage,
2004). The family should be encouraged to lead a normal
life through involvement in activities and school attendance
during periods of wellness.
Massage therapy performed by the parent,
nurse, or licensed massage therapist may help to
decrease anxiety in the child with cystic fibrosis. It
may have the added benefit of improving respiratory status, but it does not replace chest physiotherapy (Huth
et al., 2005).
LOWER LOBES, Superior segments
4. Encourage the child to deep breathe and cough.
5. Change drainage positions and repeat percussion
and vibration.
Starting at the time of diagnosis, families often
demonstrate significant stress as the severity of the diagnosis and the significance of disease chronicity become
real for them. The family should be involved in the child’s
care from the time of diagnosis, whether in the outpatient
setting or in the hospital. Ongoing education about the
illness and its treatments is necessary. Once the initial
shock of diagnosis has passed and the family has adjusted
to initial care, the family usually learns how to manage the
requirements of care. Powerlessness gives way to adaptation. As family members become more comfortable with
their understanding of the illness and the required treatments, they will eventually become the experts on the
child’s care. It is important for the nurse to recognize and
respect the family’s changing needs over time.
Providing daily intense care can be tiring, and noncompliance on the part of the family or child might occur
as a result of this fatigue. Overvigilance may also occur as
a result of the need for control over the difficult situation
as well as a desire to protect the child. Families welcome
support and encouragement. Most families will eventually progress past the stages of fear, guilt, and powerlessness. They move beyond those feelings to a way of living
that is different than what they anticipated but is something that they can manage.
Refer parents to a local support group for families
of children with cystic fibrosis. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has chapters throughout the United States and
can be accessed at www.cff.org. Additional resources can
be found at www.cysticfibrosis.com, www.cfri.org, and
Parents of children with a terminal illness might face
the death of their child at an earlier age than expected.
Assisting with anticipatory grieving and making decisions
related to end-of-life care are other important nursing
BOX 19.3
Preparing the Child and Family for Adulthood
With Cystic Fibrosis
Sudden death of a previously healthy infant <1 year of age
With current technological and medication advances,
many more children with cystic fibrosis are surviving to
adulthood and into their 30s and 40s. Lung transplantation is now being used in some patients with success, thus
prolonging life expectancy (barring transplant complications). Children should have the goal of independent living as an adult, as other children do. Making the transition
from a pediatric medical home to an adult medical home
should be viewed as a rite of passage (Madge & Byron,
2005). Pediatric clinics are focused on family-centered
care that heavily involves the child’s parents, but adults
with cystic fibrosis need a different focus, one that views
them as independent adults.
Adults with cystic fibrosis can make the transition from
pediatric to adult care with thoughtful preparation and
coordination. They desire and deserve a smooth transition
in care that will result in appropriate ongoing medical management of cystic fibrosis provided in an environment that
is geared toward adults rather than children.
Adults with cystic fibrosis are able to find rewarding
work and pursue relationships. Most men with cystic fibrosis are capable of sexual intercourse, though unable to
reproduce. Females might have difficulty conceiving, and
when they do they should be cautioned about the additional respiratory strain that pregnancy causes. All children
of parents with cystic fibrosis will be carriers of the gene.
Apnea is defined as absence of breathing for longer than
20 seconds; it might be accompanied by bradycardia.
Sometimes apnea presents in the form of an acute lifethreatening event (ALTE), an event in which the infant or
child exhibits some combination of apnea, color change,
muscle tone alteration, coughing, or gagging. Apnea may
also occur acutely at any age as a result of respiratory distress. This discussion will focus on apnea that is chronic or
recurrent in nature or that occurs as part of an ALTE.
Apnea in infants may be central (unrelated to any
other cause) or occur with other illnesses such as sepsis
and respiratory infection. Apnea in newborns might be
associated with hypothermia, hypoglycemia, infection,
or hyperbilirubinemia. Apnea of prematurity occurs secondary to an immature respiratory system. Apnea should
not be considered as a predecessor to sudden infant death
syndrome (SIDS). Current research has not proven this
theory, and SIDS generally occurs in otherwise healthy
young infants (AAP, Task Force on Sudden Infant Death
Syndrome, 2005; Ramanathan et al., 2001). Box 19.3
gives more information about SIDS and its prevention.
• Place all infants in the supine position to sleep (even
side-lying is not as safe and is not recommended by
the AAP).
• Provide a firm sleep surface and avoid soft bedding,
excess covers, pillows, and stuffed animals in the crib.
• Avoid maternal prenatal smoking and exposure of the
infant to second-hand smoke.
• Ensure the infant sleeps separately from the parents.
• Avoid overbundling or overdressing the infant.
• Encourage pacifier use at nap and bed time if the
infant is receptive to it (AAP, 2005).
Support and Information
• www.sidsalliance.org: SIDS alliance
• www.sidscenter.org: National SIDS/Infant Death
Resource Center
• www.asip1.org: Association for SIDS and Infant
Mortality Program
• sids-network.org/: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Network, Inc.
Therapeutic management of apnea varies depending
upon the cause. When apnea occurs as a result of another
disorder or infection, treatment is directed toward that
cause. In the event of apnea, stimulation may trigger the
infant to take a breath. If breathing does not resume, rescue breathing or bag-valve-mask ventilation is necessary.
Infants and children who have experienced an ALTE
or who have chronic apnea may require ongoing cardiac/
apnea monitoring. Caffeine or theophylline is sometimes
administered, primarily in premature infants, to stimulate
Nursing Assessment
Question the parents about the infant’s position and activities preceding the apneic episode. Did the infant experience a color change? Did the infant self-stimulate (breathe
again on his or her own), or did he or she require stimulation from the caretaker? Assess risk factors for apnea,
which may include prematurity, anemia, and history of
metabolic disorders. Apnea may occur in association with
cardiac or neurologic disturbances, respiratory infection,
sepsis, child abuse, or poisoning.
In the hospitalized infant, note absence of respiration,
position, color, and other associated findings, such as
emesis on the bedclothes. If an infant who is apneic fails
to be stimulated and does not breathe again, pulselessness
will result.
Nursing Management
When an infant is noted to be apneic, gently stimulate
him or her to take a breath again. If gentle stimulation is
unsuccessful, then rescue breathing or bag-valve-mask
ventilation must be started.
To avoid apnea in the newborn, maintain a neutral
thermal environment. Avoid excessive vagal stimulation
and taking rectal temperatures (the vagal response can
cause bradycardia, resulting in apnea). Administer caffeine
or theophylline if prescribed and teach families about the
use of these medications.
Infants with recurrent apnea or ALTE may be discharged on a home apnea monitor (Fig. 19.19). Provide
education on use of the monitor, guidance for when to
notify the physician or monitor service about alarms, and
training in infant CPR. The monitor is usually discontinued after 3 months without a significant event of apnea
or bradycardia. In some ways the monitor gives parents
peace of mind, but in others it can make them more nervous about the well-being of their child. Also, the alarm
on home monitors is extremely loud and parents often go
for months with inadequate sleep. Providing appropriate
education to the parents about the nature of the child’s
disorder as well as action to take in the event of apnea
may give the family a sense of mastery over the situation,
thus decreasing their level of anxiety. Refer families to
local area support groups such as those offered by Parent
to Parent and Parents Helping Parents.
A tracheostomy is an artificial opening in the airway;
usually a plastic tracheostomy tube is in place to form a
patent airway. Tracheostomies are performed to relieve airway obstruction, such as with subglottic stenosis (narrowing of the airway sometimes resulting from long-term
intubation). They are also used for pulmonary toilet and in
the child who requires chronic mechanical ventilation. The
tracheostomy facilitates secretion removal, reduces work of
● Figure 19.19 The home apnea monitor uses a soft belt
with Velcro attachment to hold two leads in the appropriate
position on the chest.
breathing, and increases patient comfort. In some cases the
tracheostomy facilitates mechanical ventilation weaning. It
may be permanent or temporary depending on the condition that leads to the tracheostomy. The tracheostomy tube
varies in size and type depending on the child’s airway
size and health and the length of time the child will require
the tracheostomy. Silastic tracheostomy tubes are soft and
flexible; they are available with a single lumen or may have
an outer and inner lumen. Both types have an obturator
(the guide used during tube changes). Typically, the tubes
with inner cannulas are used with older children and in
children with increased mucus production. Cuffed tracheostomy tubes are generally used in older children also.
The cuff is used to prevent air from leaking around the
tube. The funnel-shaped airway in younger children acts a
physiological cuff and prevents air leak. Figure 19.20 shows
various types of tracheostomy tubes.
Complications immediately postoperatively include
hemorrhage, air entry, pulmonary edema, anatomic damage, and respiratory arrest. At any point in time the tracheostomy tube may become occluded and ventilation
compromised. Complications of chronic tracheostomy
include infection, cellulitis, and formation of granulation
tissue around the insertion site (Russell, 2005).
Nursing Assessment
When obtaining the history for a child with a tracheostomy,
note the reason for the tracheostomy, as well as the size and
type of tracheostomy tube. Inspect the site. The stoma
should appear pink and without bleeding or drainage. The
tube itself should be clean and free from secretions. The
tracheostomy ties should fit securely, allowing one finger to
slide beneath the ties (Fig. 19.21). Inspect the skin under
the ties for rash or redness. Observe work of breathing.
When caring for the infant or child with a tracheostomy, whether in the intensive care unit, the patient
floor, or the home, a thorough respiratory assessment
is necessary. Note presence of secretions and their color,
thickness, and amount. Auscultate for breath sounds,
which should be clear and equal throughout all lung
fields. Pulse oximetry may also be measured. When infection is suspected or secretions are discolored or have
a foul odor, a sputum culture may be obtained.
● Figure 19.20 Note smaller size and absence of inner
cannula on particular brands of pediatric tracheostomy tubes.
● Figure 19.22 The trach collar allows for humidification of
inspired air or supplemental oxygen.
● Figure 19.21 Properly fitting trach
ties. One finger width fits between
the ties and the child’s neck.
Keep small toys (risk of aspiration),
plastic bibs or bedding (risk of airway
occlusion), and talcum powder (risk of
inhalation injury) out of reach of the child
with a tracheostomy.
Nursing Management
In the immediate postoperative period the infant or child
may require restraints to avoid accidental dislodgment of
the tracheostomy tube. Infants and children who have had
a tracheostomy for a period of time become accustomed to
it and usually do not attempt to remove the tube. Since air
inspired via the tracheostomy tube bypasses the upper airway, it lacks humidification, and this lack of humidity can
lead to a mucus plug in the tracheostomy and hypoxia.
Provide humidity to either room air or oxygen via a tracheostomy collar or ventilator, depending upon the child’s
need (Fig. 19.22). Box 19.4 lists the equipment that
should be available at the bedside of any child who has a
Tracheostomies require frequent suctioning to maintain patency. The appropriate length for insertion of
the suction catheter depends on the size of the tracheostomy and the child’s needs. Place a sign at the
head of the child’s bed indicating the suction catheter
size and length (in centimeters) that it should be
inserted for suctioning. Keep an extra tracheostomy
tube of the same size and one size smaller at the bedside
in the event of an emergency.
Many pediatric tracheostomy tubes do not have an
inner cannula that requires periodic removal and cleaning, so periodic removal and replacement of the chronic
tracheostomy tube is required. Clean the removed tracheostomy tube with half-strength hydrogen peroxide
and pipe cleaners. Rinse with distilled water and allow it
to dry. The tracheostomy tube can be reused many times
if adequately cleaned between uses.
Perform tracheostomy care every 8 hours or per
institution protocol. Change the tracheostomy tube only
as needed or per institution protocol. Nursing Procedure 19.3 gives information about tracheostomy care.
If the older child or teen has a tracheostomy tube
with an inner cannula, provide care of the inner cannula similar to that of an adult. Involve parents in care of
the tracheostomy and begin education about caring for the
tracheostomy tube at home as soon as the child is stable.
Refer the family to local support groups or to www.
tracheostomy.com, which offers many resources for a
family whose child has a tracheostomy. The child with a
tracheostomy often qualifies for a Medicaid waiver that
will provide a certain amount of home nursing care.
BOX 19.4
• Two spare tracheostomy tubes (one the same size
and one a size smaller)
• Suction equipment
• Stitch cutter (new tracheostomy)
• Spare tracheostomy ties
• Lubricating jelly
• Bag-valve-mask device
• Call bell within child’s/parent’s reach
Nursing Procedure 19.3
Tracheostomy Care
1. Gather the necessary equipment:
• Cleaning solution
• Gloves
• Precut gauze pad
• Cotton-tipped applicators
• Clean tracheostomy ties
• Scissors
• Extra tracheostomy tube in case of accidental
2. Position the infant/child supine with a blanket or
towel roll to extend the neck.
3. Open all packaging and cut tracheostomy ties to
appropriate length if necessary.
Always change tracheostomy ties with an
assistant to avoid the tube being accidentally
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1. A 5-month-old infant with RSV bronchiolitis is in
respiratory distress. The baby has copious secretions,
increased work of breathing, cyanosis, and a respiratory rate of 78. What is the most appropriate initial
nursing intervention?
a. Attempt to calm the infant by placing him in his
mother’s lap and offering him a bottle.
b. Alert the physician to the situation and ask for an
order for a stat chest x-ray.
c. Suction secretions, provide 100% oxygen via
mask, and anticipate respiratory failure.
d. Bring the emergency equipment to the room and
begin bag-valve-mask ventilation.
2. A toddler has moderate respiratory distress, is mildly
cyanotic, and has increased work of breathing, with a
respiratory rate of 40. What is the priority nursing
a. Airway maintenance and 100% oxygen by mask
b. 100% oxygen and pulse oximetry monitoring
5. Which is the most appropriate treatment for epistaxis?
a. With the child lying down and breathing through
the mouth, apply pressure to the bridge of the nose.
b. With the child lying down and breathing through
the mouth, pinch the lower third of the nose closed.
c. With the child sitting up and leaning forward,
apply pressure to the bridge of the nose.
d. With the child sitting up and leaning forward,
pinch the lower third of the nose closed.
1. A 10-month-old girl is admitted to the pediatric unit
with a history of recurrent pneumonia and failure to
thrive. Her sweat chloride test confirms the diagnosis
of cystic fibrosis. She is a frail-appearing infant with
thin extremities and a slightly protuberant abdomen.
She is tachypneic, has retractions, and coughs frequently. Based on the limited information given here
and your knowledge of cystic fibrosis, choose three of
the categories below as priorities to focus on when
planning her care:
c. Airway maintenance and continued reassessment
a. Prevention of bronchospasm
d. 100% oxygen and provision of comfort
b. Promotion of adequate nutrition
3. The nurse is caring for a child with cystic fibrosis
who receives pancreatic enzymes. The nurse realizes
that the child’s mother understands the instructions
related to giving the enzymes when the mother
makes which of the following statements?
a. “I will stop the enzymes if my child is receiving
b. “I will decrease the dose by half if my child is
having frequent, bulky stools.”
c. “Between meals is the best time for me to give the
d. “The enzymes should be given at the beginning of
each meal and snack.”
4. Which of these factors contributes to infants’ and
children’s increased risk for upper airway obstruction
as compared with adults?
a. Underdeveloped cricoid cartilage and narrow
nasal passages
b. Small tonsils and narrow nasal passages
c. Cylinder-shaped larynx and underdeveloped sinuses
d. Underdeveloped cricoid cartilage and smaller
c. Education of the child and family
d. Prevention of pulmonary infection
e. Balancing fluid and electrolytes
f. Management of excess weight gain
g. Prevention of spread of infection
h. Promoting adequate sleep and rest
2. A child with asthma is admitted to the pediatric unit
for the fourth time this year. The mother expresses
frustration that the child is getting sick so often.
Besides information about onset of symptoms and
events leading up to this present episode, what other
types of information would you ask for while obtaining the history?
3. The mother of the child in the previous question tells
you that she smokes (but never around the child), the
family has a cat that comes inside sometimes, and
she always gives her child the medication prescribed.
She gives salmeterol and budesonide as soon as the
child starts to cough. When he is not having an
episode, she gives him albuterol before his baseball
games. Diphenhydramine helps his runny nose in the
springtime. Based on this new information, what
advice/instructions would you give the mother?
4. A 7-year-old presents with a history of recurrent nasal
discharge. He sneezes every time he visits his cousins,
who have pets. He lives in an older home that is
carpeted. Tobacco smokers live in the home. His
mother reports that he snores and is a mouth breather.
She says he has symptoms nearly year-round, but they
are worse in the fall and the spring. She reports that
diphenhydramine is somewhat helpful with his symptoms, but she doesn’t like to give it to him on school
days because it makes him drowsy. Based on the
history above, develop a teaching plan for this child.
2. The nurse is caring for a child with asthma. The
child has been prescribed Advair (fluticasone and salmeterol), albuterol, and prednisone. Develop a sample teaching plan for the child and family. Include
appropriate use of the devices used to deliver the
medications, as well as important information about
the medications (uses and side effects).
3. While caring for children in the pediatric setting,
compare the signs and symptoms and presentation of
a child with the common cold to those of a child with
either sinusitis or allergic rhinitis.
5. The nurse is caring for a 4-year-old girl who returned
from the recovery room after a tonsillectomy 3 hours
ago. She has cried off and on in the past 2 hours and
is now sleeping. What areas in particular should the
nurse assess and focus on for this patient?
4. While caring for children in the pediatric setting,
review the census of clients and identify those at risk
for severe influenza and thus those who would benefit
from annual influenza vaccination.
5. Compare the differences in oxygen administration
between a young infant and an older child.
1. While caring for children in the pediatric setting,
compare the signs and symptoms of a child with
asthma to those of an infant with bronchiolitis. What
are the most notable differences? How does the history of the two children differ?

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