Breath-Holding

So let’s paint a picture… Your precarious toddler has just gotten into some type of mischief. As you remove him/her from the situation, or maybe take away the forbidden object, a temper tantrum ensues. There are a few loud cries, followed by a period of silence, and your child’s face turns red, then blue, then he proceeds to passout. Panic runs over you as you think, What just happened?!

Your child just had a breath-holding spell. These can be common occurrences for stubborn or willful children, starting between 6 months to 2 years of age. Although breath-holding spells appear quite terrifying to parents when they occur, they do not pose any severe health risk.  Once a trigger for the breathholding spells is identified, they can be prevented. Children generally outgrow breath holding spells by the age of 5-6 years.

Two Types of Breath-Holding Spells

CYANOTIC
These occur when your child stops breathing and turns blue in the face. Cyanotic events are typically triggered by something that upsets your child, like being disciplined. Once you witness a cyanotic breath-holding, you can learn the signs and begin to know exactly when these episodes will occur.

PALLID
This type of breath holding spell is less common and less predictable then the cyanotic variety. These are the result of a child experiencing a sudden fright or being startled.

What Should I Do if My Child Has One of These Episodes?

First and foremost, stay calm.

Breathing should resume in less than 1 minute. If your child is standing and a breath-holding spell occurs, help her to the floor safety and lay her on her side as you wait for her to regain consciousness.  You will also want to remove any objects from around your child to help avoid injury as they wake up.

My Child is Waking Up After Breath Holding. Now What?

It’s important to act normally after your child ha srecovered. Do not make “a fuss”, but actually treat them as normally as possible — as if nothing even happened. (Easier said than done, I know.) It’s important not to give in to your child to stop these events, as he may begin to voluntarily hold his breath to help aid in getting the outcome he desires.

When Do I Need to Come to the Office?

It’s important to call the office with any concerns, but some general guidelines for when to call the office in these situations are:

• If the attacks become frequent – more than once a day or several times per week

• If the episode lasts longer then a few minutes and its followed with a period of drowsiness and confusion

• If your child becomes pale or has a loss of consciousness for no specific reason.

As always, call our office any time you have questions or concerns.

Travis Lewis, a Kids Plus care provider, is a certified Physician Assistant and a certified Athletic Trainer.