Age, gender, exercise, fever, dehydration, certain medications and various medical conditions affect the rate of respiration, according to Dr. Lynne Eldridge for About.com. Stress, anger, pain and panic attacks can have an impact on the rate of respiration as well.
Children typically have higher respiration rates than adults, and women usually have higher respiration rates than men, explains Dr. Eldridge. People suffering from fever, dehydration, asthma attacks, COPD and heart and lung conditions often have elevated rates of respiration. Overdoses of medications, such as aspirin and amphetamines, can elevate the rate of respiration as can pain, strong emotions and panic attacks. Infections, such as influenza, tuberculosis and pneumonia, can also increase the rate of respiration.
Consumption of alcohol and the use of narcotics can depress the rate of respiration, notes Dr. Eldridge. People who suffer strokes or head injuries may have lower rates of respiration. Those with sleep apnea often experience bouts of elevated and depressed rates of respiration.
The normal rate of respiration in adults is 12 to 18 breaths per minute, states Dr. Eldridge. A respiration rate of 20 breaths per minute or more is cause for concern, while a respiration rate of 24 breaths per minute signifies an extremely serious condition. Respiration rates below eight breaths per minute are problematic.