The Night My Child Stopped Breathing

I am writing this post because it’s bronchiolitis season and bronchiolitis is something all parents should know about. I hadn’t even heard of it, let alone knew what signs to look for, yet around 1 in 3 children will develop it by their first birthday. 

Bronchiolitis is a lower respiratory tract infection which affects children under the age of 2. Its symptoms are the same as a common cold and develop into a high temperature, persistent cough and/or wheezing. Most cases aren’t serious but you should seek medical help if your child has a persistently high temperature, is having difficulty breathing or isn’t drinking/eating much. You can find out more about the symptoms on the NHS website here:

Lois was just 8 months old when she had it and it took us completely by surprise. She had had a bit of a runny nose and symptoms of a slight cold but nothing to be concerned about. She wasn’t wheezy, no high temperature, nor acting any different to normal and we hadn’t needed to give her any medicine at all.  We were sat at the dinner table, Lois in her high chair, eating our dinner when suddenly she simply stopped breathing and flopped in her highchair.  There was no food in her mouth at the time so we knew she hadn’t choked but instinctively I grabbed her out of the highchair and slapped her back and thankfully she started to breathe again.  She seemed absolutely fine and wanted to carry on with her dinner so we put it down to her simply holding her breathe.  Again, she wasn’t wheezy or struggling to breathe and didn’t seem ill at all so we didn’t think too much of it.  After recovering from the shock the rest of our evening was the same as any other night. Lois went off to bed quite happily and that (or so we thought) was the end of it.

Around midnight I woke up to hear Lois coughing in the nursery. Instinctively I knew something was wrong and as I went through her bedroom door her body went limp once again.  I picked her up out of the cot and she was completely lifeless, her body hanging in my hands like a sandbag. It was feeling I never ever want to experience again. I literally thought she was dead. Screaming at her Dad to ring an ambulance I laid her on the floor and went to start rescue breaths. Thankfully she started breathing immediately but the paramedics (who arrived within moments) decided that although her oxygen levels and temperature, etc were fine, it was best to take her in and get her properly checked.

It was at the hospital that we discovered that Lois had bronchiolitis.  Even more surprisingly, as it was May,  it was completely out of season for the illness which is most common from November- March. After a sleepless night on the children’s hospital ward and regular monitoring it was decided the following day that Lois was fine to go home. Before we were allowed to leave though we were taken into a side room and given CPR training by a nurse. We were told it was highly likely she would stop breathing again and we needed to be prepared. That was a very scary thought.

I’m glad to say that Lois was in fact fine after that and we had no more episodes of her stopping breathing (thank goodness!). It really highlighted to me though the importance of parents knowing basic first aid and also being aware of this illness, particularly through the winter months when it’s so common.  Due to my line of work I have had years of first aid training and experience but for many parents this would be all new.  If you are not sure how to deal with a child who has stopped breathing or is choking (or in fact any other medical emergencies) please take the time to look on the St John Ambulance website where you will find some fantastic step by step videos.  They also run training courses up and down the country.  I personally think that basic first aid should be a compulsory part of ante-natal classes or ‘parenting’ classes.  Knowing this sort of thing and being able to act quickly can save your baby’s life.  What bigger incentive could you possibly need?!

St John Ambulance website:




11 Comments on “The Night My Child Stopped Breathing”

  1. What an awful thing for you to go through. Utterly terrifying!! We had to call an ambulance for our eldest when he couldn’t breathe due to viral wheeze and it was really scary. He’d been sniffly and coughing but during the night he deteriorated rapidly. Now as soon as I think he’s atdtonf to head downhil we go straight to the doctors and steroids usually help him out quickly!

  2. You must have been terrified. That would have been such a scary thing to experience. One of my friends’ daughter has this just now., luckily she is fine. My son was in contact with her last week and has a snotty nose and no temperature but I’m keeping an eye on him as I had never heard of this until the other day.

  3. So scary! A few of my friends children had this and one of them was put into a coma to recover. A great read to raise awareness

  4. That sounds absolutely terrifying, but thank you for writing about it. I’m glad everything was fine – I have a 6 month old right now and I hadn’t heard of bronchiolitis.

  5. So scary! My boy had this just last week..he didn’t stop breathing thank God but he was really ill with it, had to be tune fed for a couple of days and his cough is still bad now. So glad your little one was OK in the end xx #bestandworst

  6. Absolutely terrifying! LM had bronchiolitis at about 6 mths old and both kids have had scary croup experiences where they were unable to breathe so we’ve had our fair share of 999 calls while terrified our child isn’t breathing, wouldn’t wish it on anyone! #bestandworst

  7. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been. So glad that everything worked out for the best. Good reminder to never ignore that parental instinct. if you think something isn’t right, check it out #bestandworst

  8. Flipping heck how scary! So glad Lois is ok. My youngest had this just a month ago. She was breathing ok but so quickly, vomming up feeds and her cough was bad. We ended up in hospital for a little while too. It’s a horrible bug when they are small. I need to brush up on the First Aid! Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x

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