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1219510 tn?1266713553
My 2.5 Year old son holds his breath while breathing??
My son is 2 1/2 and he holds his breath while he breathes, with I would say 90% of the breaths he takes, why?? He inhales, holds his breath, lets it out, takes a deep breath (because he held it for so long previously) then lets that one out, inhales and holds his breath again... it annoys me so much! He does it during normal moods, not while he is upset or in any kind of 'mood'.... sitting on the sofa watching TV he does it, in bed while Im laying with him to go to sleep at night he does it. not really while he is playing (too busy) more when he is sitting, watching TV.... has anyone ever heard of such a thing? He has been doing it for a long time, I would say since I can remember... is it a habit??
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You are lucky if you have such a responsive pediatrician! I don't have any new information, but this is what I can add:  My son is almost 4 and has been doing the same breathing pattern while watching tv for as long as I can remember. He is a calm, mellow kid, with an amazing attention span.  He does, however, have the same gag reflex that some one spoke of.  He can be eating very small amounts of food and "choke". He did this with water and milk as a baby as well. He also has low muscle tone and had physical therapy for several years. He begins occupational therapy next week for fine motor, balance, and proprioception issues related to torticollis as a baby. I will talk with the OT about this. Lots of people talked about allergies...what about ear infections?

I can also add that this seems to be different than a tic, which some one described.  Those are related to OCD and Tourettes and have a compulsive and conscious aspect to them.  My sister and nephews both suffer from these. Kids do grow out of them, but they can resurface in adulthood as OCD.
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My 5 year old does this too... was concerned and spoke to her about it... but she doesn't seem to be in pain or bothered by anything. Just holds her breath and then catches up on it again etc. ...
today she answered with: 'God just made me that way... I'm ok' - what an unexpected answer from a 5 year old.
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Wow!  So many others going through this!  My son has also done this his whole life.  He's almost 7.  I notice it when he's going to sleep (I can tell he's asleep because his breathing changes to normal), or watching tv.  He doesn't notice that he's even doing it.  Very strange.
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My daughter who will is almost 3 also does this and the first time I noticed it I think she had just turned 2 or a little after.  I spoke with her pediatrician about it - she has a heart murmur, but he does not think it is associated with that.  He is going to do an echocardiogram to make sure she has no issues with her heart and if not, he is going to refer us to an ENT.  She is a mouth breather and he said there is a reason she doesn't breath through her nose most of the time, so she may have some ENT issues that could be causing the breathing pattern, which is exactly what everyone else has described: breath, hold hold hold, loud exhale; breath, hold hold hold, loud exhale.  

She does it all day, but mostly while relaxing as everyone has described - while watching TV or intently focused on a book or project she is working on.  My ped asked me to observe her breathing pattern while asleep and I do not believe she does this while asleep, only awake.  At least I haven't heard her stop breathing whenever I have checked on her in the last year or so.  He was concerned about sleep apnea as others have mentioned, but I don't think her breathing stops at night.  She also does not show signs of ADHD or anything like that.  I don't think she has any allergies, but I could be wrong about that.  She does seem to get a runny nose more often that other kids with no other symptoms of cold, so maybe she does and I just don't know about it.

The ped said she has larger tonsils than most and that could be related to her adenoids (see wikipedia definition here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenoid) and that might have something to do with her mouth breathing and therefore, her breath holding.  Once we go to the ENT, I will post again.  I hope to post nothing about our echo tonight as I do not want it to have anything to do with her heart.  I am so glad I found a thread about this because I was really starting to worry and everyone looked at me like I was crazy when I asked them if their kids ever held their breaths like this!
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My 21 month old son has started this as well, has anyone found out why or has anyones child stopped??? I am worried!
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I would like to hear how your son is doing now. My son does the same exact thing. He has also done this even when he was a baby and we thought he was constipated (he's almost 3 now and its not because of constipation.) He is a stout build and has a little pot belly wondering if caused by this activity?
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My son is 3 and just started doing the same thing. Took him to the pediatrician who said it sounds like a tick but to watch him and if he does it while he sleeps she thinks it might help to go to a pulmonologist or allergist but he doesn't do it all the time just while watching tv or relaxing. When he was younger he had an episode with croup cough and they did a xray of his throat and said that he had a smaller passage than some kids. Also, the pediatrician did say that his tonsils were a bit large but didnt look irritated. He is able to stop and breath when I point it out to him and I have just been correcting him when I hear it which seems to help for a few breaths or until he changes what he is doing. I really hope he grows out of it because its annoying and scary that it might affect him longterm with not getting enough oxygen. Glad to read this blog so that I know I am not alone. Hope to hear from others whose kids are older now to see if they grew out of it.
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I just wanted to add to your list.  My 4 year old has been doing this for awhile.  Like others it can be really annoying and I often find myself telling him to just breathe.  He has slight asthma symptoms also, triggered by respiratory infections, but this happens when he is healthy as well.  Finally, he also has shown some ADHD signs which we have not had evaluated, and has other strange habits/tics/coping mechanisms which come and go.  He is a really smart boy who taught himself to read at 3 and this just worries me!
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I dont know but sounds like the problem which my 1.5year old son has. While just going to bed or waking up in the morning he struggles with his breathing. He breathes through the mouth and with no complete breath. Wondering what this might be.. gone to Hospital but no solution.
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Our son is 26 months and has been doing this for probably a year.  He breathes in, holds it a moment, and breathes out; it occurs when relaxed and/or concentrating, and while in bed but before sleep, but not when running or during periods of high activity, and not (usually) while sleeping--except when tossing/turning in his sleep.

He was hospitalized for severe breathing difficulties at 20 months, given a tentative diagnosis of asthma, put on a daily low-dose steroid, and we were sent on our way.  They did look at the "grunting" (as they called it, but it's the same activity as described here), but ascribed the cause to a virally-induced asthma.  Unfortunately, he does it when he's sick, and the asthma medicines (e.g., albuterol) don't seem to do anything, except possibly make the breath-pausing more pronounced.

It's scary, and we're worried for him, frequently.  Good to know that we're not alone.  I wish we had an answer, though.


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4337269 tn?1353009779
help: my 5 year girl has be doing this since she was 2.5 years old,. and as some of you all have said above, yes it is very annoying but we all must remember they can’t help it,. But I found out, if they are told to listen to their breathing, and to breath it will stop, but for only around 2 mins,....
has anyone got a longer lasting solution as im worried as she’s getting older and other kids are noticing and making comments
a concerning dad
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My son I noticed has been doing this for a couple of months now, right now he is sick and doing it more often, it is very worrisome for me especially when I have to figure out when to use his nebulizer treatment.  

He just sits there and holds his breath and shortly lets it out and then holds it and then lets it out.  Drives me noodless.  But when he is hard at play you dont notice it and when he is sleeping you doing notice it, just when he is in concentration or when he is watching TV.

So long story short, it is very hard to decide whether to use the neulizer treatment or not!!!  I asked his physician but she says it is normal, just doesnt feel like that to me, she also said it is okay to use if he coughs or is wheezy or congested or if his upper lip turns blue... Well I for one dont want to wait for the blue lip that is down righ scarey. But I am very worried watching him right now doing this breathing thing.
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My son does this too. He is 16 months n he's been doing it since he was 8 months. Its weird he has had a febrel seizure so when he does this it scares me. He does it mainly while watching TV n he does it when drs are trying to here his breathing or heart. I don't understand it. I guess I will ask the Dr about it next week when we go. I'm glad I'm not the only mother wondering!
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I do it... I'm 25 year old. I never noticed it until recently my Mom told me.
Any Idea ? What to do...
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My 2.5 year old son also does this, it started off just relaxing in bed before he fell asleep but not while sleeping. 6 months later he does it while relaxing, reading watching tv ect. He had reflux as a baby and bronciolitis twice. He also has eczema, no signs of any ADHD although my husband has it. His Dr put it down to a form of sleep apnea but I don't feel this is the case.
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My son is 30 months and I have noticed he doing this( breath hold breath) after he had febrile Seizure...it makes me worry...
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My son is 30 months and I have noticed he doing this( breath hold breath) after he had febrile Seizure...it makes me worry...
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377493 tn?1356505749
Request a sleep test from your Dr.  My son was doing this (he has since outgrown it fortunately) and our Dr sent us home with a small machine, easy to use, that monitored him through the night.  The results are analyzed by a sleep clinic.  This will rule out or confirm sleep apnea, and the test is non invasive.

Also consider allergies.  Even mild household ones can stuff up that little nose and make it seem like they aren't breathing for a second or two.

If you don't feel your Dr is accurate, never hesitate to seek a second opinion.
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Did anyone discover why?! my 2yo is doing this now, only I've just noticed it as he was in hospital last week for 2 days with pneumonia and ever since i watch him breathe all the time..i can't say if its something he did before because he only has tv on when im trying to do housework but now its like its all the time except when he's sleeping and concerned he hasn't recovered fully from his chest infection.. booking doctor appointment either way just wondered if anyone discovered anything since...
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Did anyone discover why?! my 2yo is doing this now, only I've just noticed it as he was in hospital last week for 2 days with pneumonia and ever since i watch him breathe all the time..i can't say if its something he did before because he only has tv on when im trying to do housework but now its like its all the time except when he's sleeping and concerned he hasn't recovered fully from his chest infection.. booking doctor appointment either way just wondered if anyone discovered anything since...
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My son who is the same age does the same thing!! Also during the same rest activities. I took him to the Dr, both his Pediatrician and ENT who had never seen it before and had no idea why he is doing it. I really couldn't believe that neither one of them had ever seen, heard, or read about a child doing this!

Needless to say, I have no answers still. Both Doctors told me not to worry unless he is holding his breath turning blue and passing out. I totally feel your pain, I am in the same boat!

I was thinking for my son maybe it was gastro-intestinal. He has had mild problems with pooping since he was born. Since when he holds his breath is sounds like he is "pushing" I was just thinking last night as I was watching him do this breathing that maybe I would ask for a referral to a gastroenterologist to check out his insides. Does your son poop consistently every day?
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Cuppa, Im glad you mentioned the constant coughing.  My 4yo daughter has it and aslo has breath holding when relaxing.  In regards to coughing, she has had some constant coughing these past few months.  I couldnt figure out the problem.  On 2 occasions, the coughing escalated so much that she couldnt stop and I had to rush her to the ER because she was close to not being able to get air in.  Eventually the fit passed but it was very scary.  In hindsight, she had done this before, but I had writtien it off as a cold, even though she wasnt sick otherwise most the time.  It sounded like a "fake" cough.  Sometimes she had a cold and brought mucus up, but mostly it sounded like a cough someone would do who didnt need to cough, very dry.... After seeing various doctors, we think its some thing called "cough variant asthma".  Thats basically when she has asthma but without the noticeable wheezing.  Its just asthma that comes in the form of a constant cough.  She was coughing once every 5 seconds and the nurses told me to bring her into ER right away.  Sometimes it was constant fits.  It can be very dangerous, just like any asthma.  I never would have guessed this was asthma though.   I am learning that once it starts, it is hard to control and scary.  So I am trying to figure out the "triggers" and try to prevent them, so the coughing doesnt start again.
I'm sorry to say it, but I think people should know.  There have been some news reports lately that children here in Atlanta this winter 2012/2013 season have had dry coughing fits and been taken to ER and did not survive.  The news indicated that the parents did not think anything was wrong until the coughing became so bad and they were having trouble breathing.  I have tried to research this everywhere and cant find any other
info.  A few weeks ago, my daughters coughing fit happened in the doctors office, and she later told me she had never seen anything like it.   It was scary and the doctor couldnt help (it was a regular office, not hospital).  The doctor thought something was caught in her airway, but of course there wasnt.  She tested negative for pertussis.  
She also does this breath holding thing right before sleeping and when relaxing.  She lets out this very restrained slow (sometimes with an annoying noise) exhale.  Her body is naturally telling her to do it, and I think the breath holding is not the problem, but whatever else is going on in her body ( and is causing the breath holding) is the problem.  Her breath holding seems to be a way to try to relax herself so she can sleep and although its annoying and a little scary, it seems to help her.  I'm trying to find the cause of the problem.  THERE IS A REASON SO MANY OF US ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE BREATH HOLDING, AND IM AFRAID FIXING THE BREATH HOLDING WILL NOT SOLVE WHATEVER THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM IS.  

She had a good on time birth, is good on all developmental stuff, I think borderline adhd/very active, possibly OCD (not sure).  She has GERD .  I cant believe so many people are writing about this breath holding and the doctors dont have answers yet.  I dont know if she has allergies - it does seem like it.  Out of desperation, I have taken her to an integrated health MD as well as numerous other doctors (to find out why she is coughing).  I did not want to pay for the cellular tests to see her intolerances yet, but the doctor says she has symptoms showing she could have a dairy intolerance.  We are cutting down dairy to see.  As I understnad, those with this intolerance get lots of mucus in thier body when eating dairy.

My theory is that the mucus (if she has it) is causing a post nasal drip (there's lots of swallowing right before sleep).  I dont know if the mucus is there due to allergy from pollens, milk intolerance, other food intolerance or what.  She does not have a cold.  She has a very slight sniffle though.  It causes her not to be comfortable before sleeping.  Then  she does the breath holding to try to settle herself down.  It works and she eventually goes to sleep.  

Thank you all for writing.  Please let us know if anyone finds out why this breath holding is happening.. thanks!
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I almost lost it on a doctor who told me not to worry about it unless her face or lips were blue!  I have acutally had about 4 health professionals ask this.  When I said no, they said its not serious.  Our health system is going down the tubes.  This is a health system issue, not a political one for me.  It has been this way for too long.  
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My 4yo daughter does this...she holds her breath and then does a slow exhale, sometimes with a wierd sound.  she does it right before sleeping or when watching tv, when totally relaxed.  In searching I found the info below which may be helpful.  The chemical changes that happen within the body may provide clues on why the kids are doing this:


How does taking a deep breath, holding it and exhaling it slowly help the body and also relieve stress? Why?

It can invoke a relaxation response
By breathing more slowly and more deeply, you're affecting your blood's chemistry. Every time you take a breath, you're pulling in oxygen into your lungs which then goes into your bloodstream. When you exhale, you're taking carbon dioxide out of your bloodstream and body. By changing the rate of your breathing, you're changing your the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood. Note this:

Deep intensive breathing (hyperventilation) leads to lack of carbon dioxide and thus to so called respiratory alkalosis (high pH), whereas moderate breathing suppression (hypo-ventilation) induces slightly excessive level of CO 2 (hyper-capnia) leading to respiratory acidosis (low pH).
http://www.dietandbody.com/article1188.html

It appears that increasing your carbon dioxide levels and lowering your pH induces what's called a "relaxation response" in the body. Deep breathing is the first part of mediation, which has this effect:

...heartbeat and respiration slow, the body's rate of oxygen consumption drops steeply, and blood lactate levels, which some researchers believe are linked to panic attacks, decline markedly. Blood pressure stabilizes in healthy people and drops in people with hypertension.
http://www.jaxtrainer.com/breath.html

Basically, as I understand it, you're fooling your body into thinking that you're in a low stress situation by doing this kind of deep breathing. When you're naturally in a stressful situation, you breathe more quickly. But when you are naturally relaxed, you breathe more slowly. By doing this kind of deep breathing, you are artificially changing your blood chemistry and triggering something in your brain which tells it "everything is okay now." The reacts with a relaxation response and sends out all sorts of signals to the rest of the body which then releases endorphins which then relaxes the body. So deep breathing is a way of tricking your brain into relaxing the rest of your body.

I hope that makes sense.
Sources: http://www.jaxtrainer.com/breath.html


http://askville.amazon.com/taking-deep-breath-holding-exhaling-slowly-help-body-relieve-stress/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=2415327
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Is your child still doing this breathing? and was it inhale... pause for about two seconds then deep exhale? My son does this... sometimes he even exhales through his mouth... I have wondering about asthma but there are no test for his age, they only go by signs and symptoms. He has had many respiratory problems but no wheezing. I took him to an ENT and he gave us a nasal steroid.... hope this helps!
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Is your chld still doing this? My son inhales... pause for about 2 seconds then exhales I have been to so many drs.... and have a sleep study set up in about a month...
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I know I'm late with this post.   I'm just curious if any of you have noticed periodic 'blue lips'  after you notice your child breathing like this?  My middle son has done this grunting breath holding thing since an infant.  Always seemed to do it when putting himself to sleep, so I viewed it as a coping/soothing mechanism.  However, in the last 1.5 yrs I've noticed periodic blue lips---and he's physically cold to the touch.  It really really makes me nervous. I've brought him in over 3 times for it--each time obviously by the time I get there lips are fine and no grunting breath holding.  Also he was extremely anemic from 1 yr - 3 yrs (but a big baby) dr.s don't seem to think the anemia would cause the blue lips, but are really stumped on what's going on.  Doing some additional lap work, and referral for the cardiologist  is in the works.  I'm just relieved to know others have also dealt with the breath holding/grunting outside of tantrums.  I just wish he could explain more to me, I keep asking if it hurts to breath--but he says no.  when I ask what he's doing then he just says I don't know and starts laughing so weird......
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My son is 14 almost 15 now and has done this all of his life.

Reading the comments above I think there are a few different issues, so I will explain my sons the best I can.

The best way I can think to describe this is almost as if he forgets to exhale until it comes out as a load exhale (almost as if he had hickups and was holding his breath). He is not exhaling so much that he recognises it himself, but enough that as stated above can be an annoyance to others. As others have stated, this seems to happen when watching TV etc, in other words when completely relaxed. As my son is older, I do not notice it as much as he spends more time doing his own thing rather than sitting with me 24/7. At the moment the kids are off school for the Easter Break. Consequently he is allowed to stay up later at night and is sat with myself and my wife watching TV until later than he would normally.

I must stress that aside from the annoyance that this causes to those sat close to my son, it has never caused a problem.

If you are worried about your child I would suggest taking them to you doctor. But as my child is quite old compared with some posting here and it has never been anything other than delayed exhalation I would not make myself Ill with worrying.

To add a little extra information. My son does suffer with hay fever and has needed an inhaler at stages of his life. Also although he is very intelligent he does have problems putting his thoughts down on paper. Even though he has been tested, he has never been diagnosed is dyslexic.

I suppose the reason I have posted here is to try and reassure some parents that so far there have been no Ill effects.
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I wrote in 6 months ago, my son is still doing this but more often. I took him back to the Drs and gave him the iPhone to play so the Dr could observe him doing it. He said its an irregular breathing pattern where he just forgets to breath whenever he is concentrating on something else then his brain kicks in making him exhale. He said he may grow out of it or may do it for life. Also it is no concern to his health. I just wish there was more information on this.
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When i watched my grandson i noticed him doing the same thing. we are a close family and always togeather so i would watch him and try to figure it out.Not sue when he stared this but maybe around 4 yrs old! now he is 11 yrs and still does it .I have noticed when he falls asleep he goes back to breathing normal untill he wakes up in the morning. He was playing baseball and football last season and i wondered how he could do this if he was holding his breath off & on so i tested him and had him run around the house,when he came back in he was out of breath alittle from running but was breathing normal again, but whent right back to holding his breath. He has gone to the dr in the past but they couldent find anything wrong when they checked him. He is not a hyper kid so i dont think its ADHD!  but his mom is going to take him to another dr for their opinion
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Well I am 19 years old and I do the same thing but I also cough really hard  as well.
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My one and a half year old daughter has identical characteristics of breathing , I actually set up an appointment for her to be seen By her pediatrician this Friday. Upon my "google research" there are a lot of potential growth and developmental issue
s that can be caused by this habit. This worries me because even as I type my daughter is watching her Disney movie breathing through her mouth holding her breathe in between. It almost sounds like a small short gasp for air in between her breathing. She appears to not inhale and only sounds like she's exhaling through her mouth. Have you gotten any more insight on this issue with your son? Please let me know thanks.
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Both my sons have done this 3.5 yr old still doing it, 7 year old seems to have grown out of it now).
My eldest has some hyperactivity and there is a lot of history in both sides of our family for both hyper / depressive characters (me included!!)
I think it's just a little kind of 'tic' - a coping mechanism for an abundance of energy without an outlet...?
It should just go of its own accord, although it can be very annoying for some time (my hubby absolutely hates it!!!!)
;)
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i do this in my sleep and i HATE it cause it hurts so bad :( but i cant control my breathing
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Omg that sounds exactly like my 5 year old. Did you eventually find out the cause?
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Omg that sounds exactly like my 5 year old. Did you eventually find out the cause?
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My son is 7 and has done this for years. Tonight I was finally at my wits end irritated by it and decided to google. After reading all the above posts a few things come to mind in similarity. My son is a bit over active. Good at school though but sometimes trouble focusing. He has shown some anxiety at times over the past 7 years. His birth was traumatic and he suffered from GERD from 2 months old and was medicated for that for a few years. He also had a misshapen epiglottis (shown to us on a camera down his nose at Children's Hospital) that caused very noisy breathing and snoring up until about age 5. He also had mild sleep apnea as well- I think just a reflexive resting from the snoring... They said he would grow out of it as he got older and he did at about the age they predicted. Perhaps breathing anomalies are just his "thing." He doesn't have asthma but may have some seasonal allergies. He only does it when reading or watching TV shows that he is really concentrating on. He doesn't notice that he is doing it. Anyway, based on what I read I am not all that concerned. He is active but seizes each day with a passion I just don't see in most other children. No way do I want to crush that and his teachers seem to like him so I am not going to worry about ADHD. It has to make concentrating for a long time difficult though so I am going to try a period of nagging him to be mindful of his breathing and see if it gets better or worse- will try to post about that. I don't want to create anxiety so may drop off if nagging bothers him. He says his breathing is fine and he doesn't have trouble. He can't explain the breath holding and resulting grunting. I also noticed one comment about post nasal drip and swallowing. This is a huge issue for him with colds and could be something to do with ongoing seasonal allergies? Will take him to have those tested but don't really want to medicate that anyway. I also have issues with it and find myself holding my breath and swallowing when it gets bad. He has had tons of invasive checking of his sinus passages at Children's hospital between ages 2 and 4 and nothing was wrong there... He plays soccer and floor hockey 4 times a week and thrives on the exercise so doesn't appear to be something that really affects air or oxygen intake. Anyway, good luck to all! Glad to have company. After reading the above I will just try not to let it bug me as much and try to help him be mindful of his breathing while reading and doing quiet work.
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Hi!  I posted here two years ago and googled it again, and I'm back!  My son is now 9 and still doing this.  Right next to me now and it drives me nuts that I can't explain it to him.... he doesn't understand that his breathing is different.  It's when he reads and watches TV, relaxed.  Holds his breath, big exhale, and repeats.   He still has signs of some OCD but not as much.  He is in the gifted program at school... was tested and has a very high IQ.  Not sure if it's some sort of mental thing.  Reads a lot.  To the person who's doctor had a sleep study done... thank you.  That is very interesting.  I wonder if he is doing it in his sleep and has sleep apnea, or will be more likely to have sleep apnea when he is older.  My brother has sleep apnea and sleeps with a machine at night.  I will try and check on him during the night and see if he does it while he sleeps.
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My 10 year old has been doing this for about a year we were thinking she may be doing the breath holds and gasp for air to get attention when we tell her to stop she starts crying saying she can't I know her mom smoked the whole time she was pregnant and I had her with breathing machine for asthma when she was little and she keeps ear infection I wonder do any of your kids have any problems with ears or asthma just trying to make connection
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My 2.5 year  daughter does this and also gets nose bleeds a bit. I know you posted this a couple of years ago and was just wondering if you got any new information on this. Thanks!
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I may have found an answer. My son is a little over three and has this too. Seems like the best answer I can find in not trusting in a primary care Dr. and requesting a referral to an ENT (please read below someone got an this diagnosed). I am also in the medical field and there is nothing more dangerous then airway complication. For Everyone looking for an answer this is the best that I have found. My question is how is you child's sleep patterns. My son wakes frequently during the night and yells for Mom or Dad. This may be linked to him waking himself while having a little trouble breathing or sleep apnea. Hope it helps.

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My 3 yo holds his breath throughout the day. He'll breathe in (short), hold it for 3-7 seconds, then breathe out (short) and repeat that frequently. He does this when he's awake, but probably not conscious of what he's doing, like when he's watching TV. At night, when he's asleep, he doesn't hold his breath at all, he breathes normally, though his breathing seems a little short. Could this be related to asthma? We're scheduled to take him in to a breathing specialist to get it checked out in the next few weeks, but I was wondering if anyone else has encountered this before.

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I'm the original poster. Nobody gave an answer that covers what turned out to be the actual cause, so I'm posting this answer to bring closure to this question. Hopefully this will be useful to anybody who is experiencing the same issue with their child.

It turns out that the cause of the breath holding was due to swollen tonsils and adenoids. The enlarged tissues around the airway was causing our son to not be able to get enough air, which caused him to constantly take short breaths and hold them as a way to compensate. It was also causing him to have sleep apnea. (Note: In the original question, I said there were no breathing issues at night when he was asleep. I was wrong. We just weren't observing long enough and at the right times.)

We took him to an ENT specialist / surgeon who said that the best option was just to remove them, because they were so swollen. After having his tonsils and adenoids removed, his breath-holding and sleep apnea went away, almost immediately.
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I may have found an answer. My son is a little over three and has this too. Seems like the best answer I can find in not trusting in a primary care Dr. and requesting a referral to an ENT (please read below someone got an this diagnosed). I am also in the medical field and there is nothing more dangerous then airway complication. For Everyone looking for an answer this is the best that I have found. My question is how is you child's sleep patterns. My son wakes frequently during the night and yells for Mom or Dad. This may be linked to him waking himself while having a little trouble breathing or sleep apnea. Hope it helps.

Question

My 3 yo holds his breath throughout the day. He'll breathe in (short), hold it for 3-7 seconds, then breathe out (short) and repeat that frequently. He does this when he's awake, but probably not conscious of what he's doing, like when he's watching TV. At night, when he's asleep, he doesn't hold his breath at all, he breathes normally, though his breathing seems a little short. Could this be related to asthma? We're scheduled to take him in to a breathing specialist to get it checked out in the next few weeks, but I was wondering if anyone else has encountered this before.

Answer
I'm the original poster. Nobody gave an answer that covers what turned out to be the actual cause, so I'm posting this answer to bring closure to this question. Hopefully this will be useful to anybody who is experiencing the same issue with their child.

It turns out that the cause of the breath holding was due to swollen tonsils and adenoids. The enlarged tissues around the airway was causing our son to not be able to get enough air, which caused him to constantly take short breaths and hold them as a way to compensate. It was also causing him to have sleep apnea. (Note: In the original question, I said there were no breathing issues at night when he was asleep. I was wrong. We just weren't observing long enough and at the right times.)

We took him to an ENT specialist / surgeon who said that the best option was just to remove them, because they were so swollen. After having his tonsils and adenoids removed, his breath-holding and sleep apnea went away, almost immediately.
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I have a 3yr old son who has been doing this for over 2 weeks now. He has been doing this when he is watching TV, right before sleeping, or when he sits in the car seat. Sometimes he even does this while eating too. We recorded the sounds that he was making (like grunting while exhaling) and took it to our pediatrician. Hearing that, the doctor mentioned that it might be related to allergies and recommended using one spray of Flonase in each nostril for a month and see the pattern. He mentioned it might be due to either allergies or adenoids and monitor him for a few days. If in a month there is no change, he said we would need to get an x-ray done to see if the adenoids have been affected.

It is definitely hard to see our kids go through breathing difficulties but I would advice you to record this when you kid does it as it would be easy for your doctor to see the pattern. I will keep you posted on how things go.
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Hi, my 3rd old daughter does the exact same thing.  She was diagnosed  with autism.  I asked several  doctor's why and  many believe it's a neurological stimulating effect for them.  Many autisic kids are highly sensitive to touch, sounds etc...the breath holding and releasing is oddly soothing to them.  

I drives me crazy!! I worry about her heart rate, blood pressure but she does it at her most relaxed stage.  one dr said it's like getting  high, not the best example but I see the relationship to the feeling she gets.  I hope this helps alittle.
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Thank you so much for your post! I've been going crazy for years looking for an explanation; my 5 yo son has been having breathing problems ever since I can remember - holding his breath, breathing through his mouth, puffing; I feel bad, it looks so unhealthy - and it's annoying; He also has a  little underbite and speech/articulation problems - and I think it's all related;
He was evaluated by ENT 2 years ago - who stated my son would grow out of it; orthodontist said the same thing - recommending that we follow up when he has permanent teeth and explain his jaws still form and can change;
I think it's time to get a second opinion and see another ENT and have them take a closer look at his tonsils;
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My grandson does this also !!! What the hell is it !!?? Yes annoying...I thought he would out grow it....he is 7 now.
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My son is almost 5 and has been diagnosed with ADHD, it seems like he forgets to exhale just like everyone else on this thread. I dont know why he does it and cant find answers anywhere, he does it when watching tv or playing video games or just sitting quietly, no ideas why; he also has a speech delay so getting answers from him are hard. Glad to see im not alone in the quest to find answers.
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My daughter had strep last month and promptly developed a blinking tic.  A little while later she developed this breath holding pattern that everyone here describes.  I really think the tic was brought on by the strep because her brother developed tics at the same age (8), after having strep. Both kids were treated promptly with antibiotics when they had strep.  Her brother never had the breath holding tic, he would mostly bite his lip. She does have asthma and allergies, but on a recent visit her pulmonologist said her asthma has improved and he thought it was a nervous habit/anxiety.  She tells me she cannot control the breathing issue which she never had before the strep. I am bringing her to more doctors soon.
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Like everyone else I was Googling to find out some information regarding my now 2yr old sons breathing habit. I probably only noticed it a few mths ago (around 21mths old). He only does it when he settles down to go to sleep. (Takes a deep breath, holds it for a little while then exhales).  Once he's asleep and changes his breathing from through the mouth to through the nose it stops.  He's my third, he's the most challenging of my kids and neither of the older two have any habits like this.  I was just concerned if it was linked to SIDS/cot death hence starting to Google.  More research/info and links to this habit would be great. Thanks to all keeping this post alive. It's been an interesting/informative read.
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Hi I found this post after googling the same issue for my 4.5 year old daughter. She holds little breaths when concentrating or watching tv. I was reminded she did this even when she was 2 after I watched a Christmas home video. I then reminded myself I also do this and I'm doing it now as I read these posts! There is nothing 'wrong' with me. I have a cold at present and had ear nose and throat issues when younger. I had rhinitis and had my annonoids removed. I also suffer from hay fever and although I can breath through my nose I prefere to breath through my mouth as I feel I get more air. Perhaps I have small airways??? Who knows it could all be related?? I'm taking my daughter for an audiology test in a couple if weeks as her teachers have concerns about her hearing and concentration, I'm thinking she may also have similar childhood ailments I had. She is very bright and artistic,  loves drawing and writing but does have a short attention span. I think this is all simply the make up of her and I dont want to get too bogged down researching and finding answers to 'explain' her ways.
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