A respiratory failure is a life-threatening condition when the respiratory system can no longer support the body’s vital functions. It is characterized by a decrease in heart rate, oxygen levels becoming critically low, and finally, cardiac arrest. When their breathing becomes labored or they experience chest pain, they should speak to their doctors immediately. This article will provide brief descriptions of respiratory failure’s major signs and symptoms.

Difficulty Breathing

Difficulty breathing is one of the most common symptoms of respiratory failure. It often comes on gradually, accompanied by excessive sweating and feelings of dizziness or weakness. Difficulty breathing may not be noticed until the patient’s O2 saturation is low enough that they lose consciousness.


Chest Tightness

Constant and severe chest tightness indicates that the patient has very poor lung function and is experiencing respiratory failure. This symptom is often accompanied by shortness of breath and fatigue, especially during exertion. Chest tightness can lead to heart failure as the patient’s condition becomes more severe.

Low Pulse Rate

A low pulse rate indicates that the patient’s entire body is failing, and the body is working to compensate for its depleting resources. Low pulse rates may be accompanied by caution from their caregivers, as heart failure can be life or death if it is not treated immediately.

Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure is an indication that the patient’s circulation is failing and again that the body is working to compensate for its lack of resources. The patient will probably experience weakness or dizziness and could become unconscious if blood pressure drops.

Low O2 Saturation

Oxygen levels are extremely important to a patient suffering from respiratory failure, as they indicate whether or not the lungs are working properly. Low oxygen saturation usually occurs gradually and is accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, and feelings of faintness.


Sudden bouts of extreme drowsiness signify that the patient’s situation is rapidly declining. It indicates that there is a great deal of inflammation in the lungs and failure of other major organs. It is often a sign that the patient could be close to death if not received immediate treatment.

Changes in Respiratory Pattern

A change in respiratory pattern may indicate the presence of respiratory distress. A patient with severe respiratory distress may start crying or turn blue, or they may even stop breathing altogether.