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Breath holding problems in your toddlers can be quite traumatic to witness and handle. Although it poses no serious health threats, it can be quite alarming and stressful to deal with. Here are some guidelines to understand breath holding in your child and learn how to deal with it.
What is Breath Holding?
The term breath holding is used to describe a situation where your child literally holds his breath back and stops breathing, until he loses consciousness.
Why do Kids Hold their Breath?
Your child is most likely to hold his breath when he is irritated, angry, frustrated or is going through a traumatic situation. Remember that in a majority of cases, your child is not holding his breath intentionally; it is often triggered by an involuntary response system in him.
Causes and Symptoms of Breath Holding in Toddlers
Breath holding in kids can be broadly divided into two types. The first type is called ‘cyanotic breath holding’. In this case, breath holding is usually in response to a situation which upsets, angers or frustrates your child. You can usually predict such attacks if you observe your child and find out what triggers such strong emotions in him. Another telltale sign is when you notice your child’s face slowly turning “purple with rage”.
The next type of breath holding is termed as ‘pallid breath holding’, where the child might hold his breath due to fright, or from being startled. In this case, you will see that the child will turn deathly pale during the course of the episode.
In breath holding episodes, it is normal for a child to lose consciousness and turn blue due to lack of oxygen. In extreme cases, the child may even exhibit seizure like symptoms. Such episodes usually last for less than a minute, and in most instances, the child will start breathing deeply and come to his senses again. He may be upset, and may not remember the episode at all.
How to Handle Breath Holding Issues in Toddlers
Handling a breath holding episode can be very stressful for you as a parent. But it is imperative that you know how to handle such episodes in the right way. The first and one of the most important thing to remember is to try not to panic. If your child is having a breath holding episode, roll him over to one side, check his mouth for any object that may cause choking. It is a good idea to learn basic CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to administer it in cases where you feel that the child is taking time to breathe normally.
Tips to Prevent or Limit Breath Holding Spells
In many cases, it is possible for you to prevent a breath holding spell by simply observing your child and finding out what triggers such an event. Train your child to discipline himself, and teach him ways to calm himself down if he encounters a potentially unnerving situation. When he gets angry, counting to five, and taking deep breaths can help your child. Engage your child in soothing activities like music, free play, stories, or whatever he loves doing.
Seeking Medical Help
It is always a good idea to consult your doctor if you find the breath holding episodes to be persistent. He may be able to rule out any other underlying medical conditions that may have been overlooked. He can also advise you on the proper course of action to follow.
Most children outgrow breath holding by around five years of age. Even if your child has this condition, always keep in mind that it is only a passing phase and poses no serious threats to his health. Support your child, encourage and help him deal with this issue constructively.