“Therefore in medicine, we ought to know the causes of sickness and health.”---Avicenna
What is the pulse rate?
The pulse rate is a measurement of the heart rate, or the number of times the heart beats per minute. As the heart pushes blood through the arteries, the arteries expand and contract with the flow of the blood. Taking a pulse not only measures the heart rate, but also can indicate the following:
strength of the pulse
The normal pulse for healthy adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. The pulse rate may fluctuate and increase with exercise, illness, injury, and emotions. Females, ages 12 and older, in general, tend to have faster heart rates than do males. Athletes, such as runners, who do a lot of cardiovascular conditioning, may have heart rates near 40 beats per minute and experience no problems.
How to check your pulse:
As the heart forces blood through the arteries, you feel the beats by firmly pressing on the arteries, which are located close to the surface of the skin at certain points of the body. The pulse can be found on the side of the lower neck, on the inside of the elbow, or at the wrist. When taking your pulse:
Using the first and second fingertips, press firmly but gently on the arteries until you feel a pulse.
Begin counting the pulse when the clock's second hand is on the 12.
Count your pulse for 60 seconds (or for 15 seconds and then multiply by four to calculate beats per minute).
When counting, do not watch the clock continuously, but concentrate on the beats of the pulse.
If unsure about your results, ask another person to count for you.
If your physician has ordered you to check your own pulse and you are having difficulty finding it, consult your physician or nurse for additional instruction.
What is the respiration rate?
The respiration rate is the number of breaths a person takes per minute. The rate is usually measured when a person is at rest and simply involves counting the number of breaths for one minute by counting how many times the chest rises and falls. Respiration rates may increase with fever, illness, and with other medical conditions.
The normal respiratory rate for babies from birth to 6 months is 30 to 60 breaths per minute; after the age of 6 months, breathing has slowed to 24 to 30 breaths per minute. For children from the age of 1 to 5 years old, normal respiration is 20 to 30 breaths per minute. Children who are from 6 to 12 years old should have a normal respiratory rate that ranges from 12 to 20 breaths per minute. The normal respiratory rate for adults and children over the age of 12 ranges from 14 to 18 breaths per minute. Younger adults, children, and babies will have faster respiratory rates, because as people age, their breathing slows.
Abnormally slow breathing, called bradypnea, may be the symptom of a metabolic disorder or a tumor. Bradypnea may occur during sleep, and can be induced through the use of opiate narcotics. Apnea, when a person's breathing completely stops, can be caused by a number of conditions. Some of the usual causes of apnea in children are asthma, bronchiolitis, gastro-esophageal reflux, seizures, or premature births.
When checking respiration, it is important to also note whether a person has any difficulty breathing. Normal respiration rates for an adult person at rest range from 15 to 20 breaths per minute. Respiration rates over 25 breaths per minute or under 12 breaths per minute (when at rest) may be considered abnormal.