Protocol - Respiratory Rate - Infant

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For infants (up to 3 years of age), a study staff member listens to breath sounds via a stethoscope lightly placed on the infant’s chest for 60 seconds to count the number of complete respiratory cycles (one inspiration and one expiration). Note that because respiratory rate in infants is significantly different when awake versus when asleep, studies should be consistent in measuring this variable.

Alternatively, observe the rise and fall of the chest for a complete inspiration and expiration and count for a full 60 seconds.

Specific Instructions



1) Infants (up to 3 years) should be calm, either awake (including quietly seated or quietly playing) or asleep (sleep not associated with any spontaneous movement, including no eye movements or vocalizations). Infants: count breath sounds in a complete respiratory cycle for 60 seconds with a stethoscope gently placed on infant’s chest.

Alternatively, with fingers near the radial artery, observe respirations. Observe the rise and fall of the chest. After a complete cycle of inspiration and expiration, count for a full 60 seconds.

2) Record results.



Personnel and Training Required

Staff trained to count respiratory rates and auscultate breath sounds with a watch

Equipment Needs

Watch that can measure time in seconds and a stethoscope

Requirement CategoryRequired
Major equipment No
Specialized training No
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collection No
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individual No
Mode of Administration

Physical Examination

Life Stage

Infant, Toddler


Infants up to 3 years of age

Selection Rationale

This is a standard protocol and is found in nursing guidelines.



caDSR Common Data Elements (CDE) Person Respiratory Rate Text 2970219 CDE Browser
Human Phenotype Ontology Tachypnea HP:0002789 HPO
Derived Variables


Process and Review

The Expert Review Panel #6 (ERP 6) reviewed the measures in the Respiratory domain.

Guidance from ERP 6 includes:

• Replaced protocol

• New Data Dictionary

Back-compatible: there are changes to the Data Dictionary, previous version of the Data Dictionary and Variable mapping in Toolkit archive (link)

Protocol Name from Source

NA, see source


Evans-Smith, P. (2005). Taylor’s clinical nursing skills: A nursing process approach. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Fleming, S., Thompson, M., Stevens, R., Heneghan, C., Pluddemann, A., Maconochie, I., … Mant, D. (2011). Normal ranges of heart rate and respiratory rate in children from birth to 18 years of age: A systematic review of observational studies. Lancet, 377, 1011-1018.

Taylor, C., Lillis, C., LeMone, P., & Le Bon, M. (2005). Skill checklists to accompany fundamentals of nursing: The art and science of nursing care (5th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

General References

Rusconi, F., Castagneto, M., Gagliardi, L., Leo, G., Pellegatta, A., Porta, N., … Braga, M. (1994). Reference values for respiratory rate in the first 3 years of life. Pediatrics, 94, 350-355.

Protocol ID


Export Variables
Variable Name Variable IDVariable DescriptiondbGaP Mapping
PX091404020000 What is the number of breath sounds in a more
complete respiratory cycle for 60 seconds heard with a stethoscope gently placed on the infant's chest? show less
PX091404010000 Is the infant calm, awake (including quietly more
seated or quietly playing), or asleep (sleep not associated with any spontaneous movement, including no eye movements or vocalizations)? show less
PX091404030000 What is the number of respirations by more
observing the rise and fall of the chest for 60 seconds? show less
Measure Name

Respiratory Rate

Release Date

November 28, 2017


Respiratory rate is the number of breaths an individual takes within a specific amount of time (frequently given in breaths per minute).


Respiratory rate is a low-burden, quantitative variable that can be used to distinguish individuals with and without various forms of lung disease.


Respiratory, breaths per minute, inspiration, expiration, auscultation