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Normal Adult Respiration Rate

Updated July 19, 2017

The respiratory rate (RR) is one of the vital signs measured when physicians and nurses check your health status. Respiration (breathing) is controlled by the brain. A variety of factors can influence your respiration such as head injury, bleeding, stress and fever, hypothermia, medications, voluntary control or exertion from an activity.

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Respiration rate is the number of your breath per minute. This rate is usually determined by counting the number of times the chest raises (inspirations) or falls (expirations) for one minute.

Normal Range

The normal respiration rate for an adult person at rest, as stated in the University of Virginia's Health System website, is from 15 to 20 breaths per minute. Respiration rates of more than 25 breaths per minute or under 12 breaths per minute (when at rest) may be considered abnormal. Abnormal breathing may be characterised as deep breathing, shallow breathing and rapid breathing.

Rate Changes

The primary function of the respiratory system is to obtain oxygen for use by your body's cells. Changes in your respiratory rate happens, for instance, when you are working--RR is 25 breaths per minute--and when you're sleeping--RR becomes lower or around 15 breaths per minute.

Method of Examination

It is important that your body is at rest or relaxed when getting the respiratory rate. Health care providers usually count your respiratory rate while pretending to take your pulse---to get a steady and accurate RR.

Computing RR

It is ideal to measure the RR for a full minute. Oftentimes, respiration is observed for only 30 seconds and then the doubled count represents the RR per minute. If pressed for time, respiration can be observed for 15 seconds and then multiplying it by four to get the RR per minute.

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About the Author

JD, short for J. Dephoff is a writer, practical nurse and freelance researcher for 3 years, with focus on the science and technology field. Technically speaking, a graduate of Bachelor of Arts, Major in Mass Communications with a second course in Practical Nursing—both taken at the California State University. JD had written health and science related articles for eHow and similar online publishing companies.

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