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Normal breathing rate depends on age, whether you're resting or active and your lung health. It is measured as the number of breaths taken per minute and is a useful and easy way to monitor general health. Fast shallow breathing can indicate lung and other diseases or anxiety or panic, while breathing rate slows under sedation or anesthetic and can happen with drug overdoses.
Birth to Age SIx
A newborn baby has a normal breathing rate of 30-60 breaths per minute. This rapid breathing continues as the baby begins to grow and starts slowing down at around six months of age. By the age of one, the normal breathing rate has slowed to around 24-40 breaths a minute and stays at this rate until around age three. From age three to six the normal breathing rate while at rest slows further to around 22-40 breaths a minute.
Age Six to Twelve
School-aged children have a normal breathing rate, also known as respiratory rate, of 18-30 breaths a minute while resting. An increased rate can indicate illness or can occur when the child is under medication for asthma or allergies. Parents should be aware of their child's normal breathing rate so they can be alert to possible health issues when there is a significant change.
Teenagers generally have strong hearts and lungs and are at the peak of physical fitness. Their normal breathing rate when resting is the lowest of any age group at only 12-16 breaths per minute. Teenagers significantly outside that range should undergo tests. These could include looking for thyroid problems as metabolic rate can affect breathing, or blood testing for drugs which can raise or lower the normal breathing rate.
An adult at rest should take 12-20 breaths per minute. Higher respiratory rates can be caused by exertion, stress, poor acclimatization to high altitude and respiratory disease. During exercise a healthy younger adult takes around 35-45 breaths per minute, while in some endurance sports athletes may breath 60-70 times a minute. As people age they tend to breathe more shallowly and therefore more often to get enough oxygen in the blood.