Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is an acute form of severe alveolar–capillary injury that evolves after a direct or indirect lung insult. It begins as noncardiogenic pulmonary edema and develops into a neutrophilic alveolitis, and, later, pulmonary fibrosis. Mortality remains high among children with ARDS, particularly when serious underlying conditions co-exist, sepsis occurs, and when there is multi-organ failure. Lung function improves with time among survivors, but pulmonary fibrosis may persist. Advances in the care of children with ARDS include the use of lung-protective ventilator strategies, permissive hypercapnia, inhaled nitric oxide, high-frequency ventilation, and extra-corporeal life support. These approaches reduce ventilator-associated lung injury and may improve survival when used in combination with one another. Interventions that reduce alveolar inflammation, enhance alveolar fluid removal, and reduce pulmonary fibrosis will further improve survival and recovery from ARDS in the future.