Home > Kids > Childhood Safety > First Aid > How to Help During Hyperventilation
|

How to Help During Hyperventilation

First Things First

Because it is difficult to distinguish between hyperventilation and asthma, find out if the party having difficulty has any history of anxiety disorder or asthma. If you can't get an answer, it's better to be safe than sorry. Perform first aid for asthma, making sure the injured person is comfortable and his or her clothes are loosened, before trying hyperventilation techniques.

Although its root might be anxiety, the sensations that accompany hyperventilation are very real. The sufferer may experience the sense of not catching one's breath, the feeling of overwhelming terror that something is wrong, and the feeling that there is a loss of control. Hyperventilation can mimic an asthma attack or a heart condition. It occurs during an acute anxiety attack. Symptoms can include:

  • Numbness in the hands, feet, and mouth
  • A tingling sensation in the fingers or toes
  • Overwhelming feelings of panic
  • Chest pain
  • Light-headedness
  • Inability to catch one's breath

Although these symptoms are very real, they are not the source of the problem. Overbreathing is the cause: A person literally breathes in too much oxygen.

To stop hyperventilation in its tracks, simply use a paper bag as described here:

For hyperventilation, have the victim breathe into a paper bag for several minutes.
For hyperventilation,
have the victim breathe into
a paper bag for several minutes.
  1. Have the hyperventilating person breathe slowly into a paper bag that's held closely around his or her mouth and nose.
  2. The person should breathe like this for five to seven minutes.
  3. Talk to the individual the entire time. Try to distract him or her and make the person feel comfortable and safe.
  4. If symptoms fail to improve or the person loses consciousness, take him or her to the emergency room.

That's all it should take. When the person breathes back in the carbon dioxide that she just exhaled, the correct chemical balance in the blood is restored and the physical symptoms cease.

First Things First

If you don't have a paper bag, plain old hands will do. Simply have the person cup his or her hands over the mouth and nose and breathe in and out for at least five minutes.

When a person hyperventilates, emergency medical assistance is usually not necessary if the procedures above are followed. But call a physician just in case; what looks like hyperventilation could be the onset of asthma or a severe allergic reaction that requires medication for relief.

More on: First Aid

|

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

thanksgiving crafts & recipes

Make this Turkey
Day fun for the
whole family with
these essentials.

GO

highlights

7 Home Remedies to Soothe Cold & Flu Symptoms
The AAP does not recommend giving over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children under 4, so treating children's cold and flu symptoms naturally can be the best course of action. Read about some home remedies that might help.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

11 Awesome Thanksgiving Games & Activities for Families
Looking for fun Thanksgiving Day activities for the whole family? Check out 11 kid-friendly indoor and outdoor activities that will bring your family together in the spirit of the holiday.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!