Respiratory Distress Syndrome: Understanding the Condition

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) is a lung condition that affects newborns, usually those born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

RDS occurs when the baby's lungs are not fully developed and don't produce enough surfactant, a substance that helps keep the air sacs in the lungs open. As a result, the baby's breathing becomes difficult, and they may have a bluish tint to their skin (cyanosis). RDS is a serious condition, but most babies recover fully with proper treatment.


The most common symptoms of RDS include the following:

Rapid breathing: Newborns with RDS may breathe faster than normal as they work harder to get enough oxygen into their lungs.

Grunting or whistling sounds while breathing: These sounds can be heard when a baby with RDS exhales as they try to keep their airways open.

Flared nostrils: The baby may flare their nostrils when breathing as they try to get more air into their lungs.

Retractions: Retractions happen when the skin between the ribs and above the collarbone sinks in when you breathe. This is a sign that the baby is working hard to breathe.

Cyanosis: This is a bluish tint to the skin, most commonly seen around the lips and nails. It occurs when the baby is not getting enough oxygen into their body.

Low oxygen levels: Pulse oximetry can identify the baby's potential low oxygen levels.

Risk Factors

RDS is more common in premature babies, particularly those born before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Other risk factors include the following:

  • Multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Mothers with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes,
  • Male gender
  • Family history of RDS


RDS is typically diagnosed by a paediatrician or neonatologist based on the baby's symptoms and medical history.

Oxygen levels will be measured through pulse oximetry, which uses a small sensor placed on the baby's skin to measure the oxygen level in the blood. Chest X-rays may also be done to confirm the diagnosis.


Most of the time, extra oxygen is given to the baby through a nasal cannula or a face mask to treat RDS. In some cases, a mechanical ventilator may be needed to help the baby breathe.

Surfactant replacement therapy, which involves giving the baby a synthetic form of surfactant through a tube inserted into their lungs, may also be used to help keep the air sacs open.


RDS can be avoided by making sure that women get the right prenatal care, including early detection and treatment of risk factors like premature labour. Additionally, giving corticosteroids to mothers at risk of premature delivery can help speed up the maturation of the baby's lungs, reducing the risk of RDS.

As a parent or caregiver, the thought of your newborn struggling to breathe can

be incredibly distressing. But remember, respiratory distress syndrome is a treatable condition, and with the right care, most babies make a full recovery.

It is essential to stay informed and aware of the signs and symptoms of RDS, but also to have faith in the medical professionals who are dedicated to helping your little one. Think of it this way: RDS may be a bump in the road, but it's not the end of the journey. Your baby is strong and resilient and will come out of this even more determined to thrive.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Hyderabad - Kondapur. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. Who is at risk of RDS?

RDS is more common in premature babies, particularly those born before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Other things that raise the risk of RDS are having more than one baby, being a man, and having a history of RDS in the family.

2. How long does it take for a baby with RDS to recover?

How long it takes for a baby with RDS to get better depends on how bad the condition is and how healthy the baby is in general. In most cases, babies will begin to improve within a few days of treatment and be able to breathe on their own within a week or two. However, some babies may require more intensive treatment and take longer to recover.

3. Can RDS have long-term effects on a baby's health?

Most of the time, babies with RDS who get the right care get better and don't have any long-term health effects. But in some cases, RDS can cause other problems, such as chronic lung disease, delays in development, or problems with seeing or hearing.

4. Is RDS only found in premature babies?

RDS is more common in babies born early, but it can also happen in full-term babies if there is a problem with how surfactant is made or how it works.

5. What should I do if I suspect my baby has RDS?

If you suspect that your baby has RDS, it is vital that you seek medical attention immediately. Your baby will need to be evaluated by a paediatrician or neonatologist and may require treatment in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

6. Is there a cure for RDS?

There is no specific cure for RDS, but it is treatable with proper medical care. Most of the time, treating a baby means giving the baby more oxygen and, in some cases, doing something called surfactant replacement therapy.

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