Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn

What is transient tachypnea of the newborn?

Transient tachypnea of the newborn is a mild breathing problem. It affects babies during the first hours of life. Transient means it is short-lived. Tachypnea means fast breathing rate. The problem usually goes away without treatment in 3 days or less.

How to say it


What causes transient tachypnea of the newborn?

Before babies are born, they have fluid in their lungs. Babies reabsorb some of that fluid because of hormone changes that happen before birth. More fluid gets reabsorbed as they pass through the birth canal during delivery. The rest of the fluid is absorbed into the lungs after they are born and start breathing on their own. If the fluid isn't absorbed fast enough or if they have too much fluid in the lungs, they can't take in oxygen very well. Babies with this problem have to breathe faster and harder to get enough oxygen into the lungs.

Who is at risk for transient tachypnea of the newborn?

Only a small number of all newborn babies get this breathing problem. Although premature babies can have it, most babies with this problem are full-term. Babies delivered by C-section (without labor) are more likely to have this condition. This is because without the hormone changes of labor the fluid in the lungs is still there. The baby has to work to reabsorb it after birth. Babies of moms with asthma and diabetes may also be more likely to have this condition.

What are the symptoms of transient tachypnea of the newborn?

Symptoms may occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:

  • Rapid breathing rate of more than 60 breaths per minute
  • Grunting sounds with breathing
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Pulling in at the ribs with breathing

The symptoms of this breathing problem can look like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is transient tachypnea of the newborn diagnosed?

Your baby's healthcare provider may use a chest X-ray to help diagnose the problem. On X-ray, the lungs look streaked and overinflated. The symptoms of this breathing problem may be similar to other more serious respiratory problems. These include lung infection (pneumonia) or premature lungs (respiratory distress syndrome). Often transient tachypnea of the newborn is diagnosed when symptoms go away in the first few hours to days of life.

How is transient tachypnea of the newborn treated?

Usually the problem goes away on its own within about 3 days. Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Treatment may include:

  • Supplemental oxygen. Oxygen is given to your baby by placing a mask on the face or prongs (cannula) in the nose, or by putting your baby under an oxygen hood.
  • Blood tests. These tests measure the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your baby’s blood. Tests may also be done to look for infection.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure. This treatment uses a mechanical breathing machine. The machine pushes a continuous flow of air to your baby’s airways to help keep tiny air passages in the lungs open.
  • IV (intravenous) fluid.  Your baby may need this for hydration and nutrition if the condition does not go away within the first few hours. This is because babies who are having trouble breathing aren't able to eat.
  • Tube feeding. Your baby may need this if his or her breathing rate is too high for more than a few hours. This will help give your baby more nutrition without the risk of breathing in food from the mouth into the lungs.

Once the problem goes away, your baby should get better quickly. He or she should not have a higher risk for other breathing or long-term problems.

Online Medical Reviewer: Lee, Kimberly G, MD, MSc, IBCLC

Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP

Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2018

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