A healthy adult takes approximately 12 to 16 breaths per minute, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Children have higher respiratory rates. For example, an infant takes 30 to 60 breaths per minute, whereas a school-aged child takes 18 to 30 breaths per minute.
Respiratory rate is one of four vital signs commonly measured by medical professionals because some illnesses can cause respiration rates to increase, according to About.com Health. Medical conditions, such as infections, may cause increased respiration because the body is trying to get rid of excess carbon dioxide, which is often elevated when a severe infection is present.