Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.

close this box

cheap viagra at lowest price

Breath-holding & Fainting

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Have you ever fainted?  I bet you may have not realized how common fainting is in the pediatric age group?  I know this from my own children (yes, I had 2 “fainters” and boys no less) as well as from many of my patients.  The medical term for fainting is syncope, and it really is common among children.

It starts during the toddler years with breath-holding spells.  Many in this age group (up to 50%) will hold their breath when they are hurt or angry. When a child holds their breath while crying (you can just see it happening in front of you) they will often turn a bit clue and “pass out”. This is a type of fainting.

This can be very scary for parents who have never seen their precious child have such an attitude and then hold their breath over not getting the cookie? Yes, this is a normal part of being a toddler! They are very emotional and labile at this age (foreshadowing for teen years?) and most toddlers don’t have a lot of language yet, so when they get mad or frustrated they just SCREAM!

But, while screaming, the child forgets to take a breath, and then the brain and autonomic nervous system takes over and the breath holding leads to fainting.

The breath holding spell, as scary as it is, is just a form of fainting. It will not hurt your child, but it may take your breath away!

My advice? Try not to pay attention to your child if they begin having breath-holding spells. It may be hard to “ignore” the first two or three, but these “spells” usually last for months (maybe years) and you do not need to rush to your child when they hold their breath.

By calling attention to the event you may inadvertently reinforce the behavior.

As a child gets older, the breath holding will stop (but not the tantrums?) and there will be new behaviors to conquer.

Do you have a breath-holder? How do you cope? Let us know!

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Related Posts on

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Google
  • Digg
  • LinkedIn
Email This Post
Print This Post

One Response to “Breath-holding & Fainting”

  1. Patricia says:

    My son held his breath to the point of turning blue and then passing out probably around 5-7 different times in his early toddlerhood. It began happening before his language skills were clear. And it often was preceded by an episode of big frustration and screechy energy around not being able to accomplish something.

    So, I would just like to add something from that experience here. If a toddler’s behavior is very irritating in the moment, I could see the value in ignoring it so as not take the bait and get very angry with them. However, if a parent is able to be a calm supportive presence to a child caught in a pattern of breath-holding, I think it goes a long way toward helping that child shift into less intense patterns and more productive release of their emotional frustration.

    With my son, it was obvious that he was struggling against what he could and couldn’t control in his world (most often what he physically couldn’t accomplish yet) and it was obvious he had huge frustration and emotions around this issue. So, what worked well for us was that I went in close to give him warm emotional attention while he started losing the ability to breathe. I told him things like, “I’m here, I’m here, you will breath, blow out, blow out, it’s okay, I’m here”. This helped us catch the pattern earlier and earlier so that he could soothe out of it before going to blueness and fainting again.

    If the pattern started over something like wanting a cookie he couldn’t have, I didn’t budge on not giving the cookie, but I just focused on calming the physical response he was having and then segued into firm but kind acknowledgements that I knew he wanted the cookie but couldn’t have it, & I knew that was hard and upsetting, etc until he cried or screeched out that frustration and was ready to switch gears or let go of the upsetting thing.

    Learning from our doctor that he wouldn’t die after turning blue and going limp, was a huge factor in helping us calm ourselves enough to stay with this very scary-looking situation! Once we figured out how to stay calm and supportive for him, his frustrations started getting expressed in much more manageable ways and he stopped getting to the point of breath-holding altogether. I think taking that route helped show our son that he could count on us to be calm when things get intense, and that we could help him soothe out of intense situations/emotions. He actually went on to be a pretty mildly tantruming toddler from then on (not very often and not very intensely).

What Do You Think? Leave Us Your Comment.