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Breath Holding Spell
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Breath Holding Spell

Hey ladies... I took my 4 1/2 month old to the hospital last night due to her gasping for air.  She's done this 4 times and this one lasted 10 minutes and scared me to death.  The hospital told me its the "Breath Holding Spell" which is for people who don't know....

Breath holding spells are the occurrence of episodic apnea in children, possibly associated with loss of consciousness, and changes in postural tone.

Breath holding spells occur in approximately 5% of the population with equal distribution between males and females. They are most common in children between 6 and 18 months and usually not present after 5 years of age. They are unusual before 6 months of age. A positive family history can be elicited in 25% of cases.

I didn't think she could develop this at such a young age....it breaks my heart every time.  Anyone else go through this or have any helpful hints how to deal/cope with this?!?  Any replies would be much appreciated.  Thanks so much.
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376739_tn?1317669990
Because it is such a rare thing I've never heard of it nor do I have any advice/experience to offer. But that is definitely scary! What are the doctors suggesting?
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316024_tn?1248903426
I have a drama queen on my hands lol... They told me to let her have her tantrum and if she turns white to call 911.  If she turns red, blue or purple its ok.  She may pass out but then she'll be breathing again.  I don't want her to pass out, its scary enough with her gasping for air let alone passing out!!!  I found holding her walking outside calms her down quicker. I should research more about it on the net.  My mom said I had it when I was 6 months so I know where she got it from :(  She's only 4 1/2 months though. Sooo scary to see.
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525485_tn?1314364901
meg, I am so sorrry you are going through this. That lttle princess of yours is giving you a heartattack. I can only imagine. Hang in there!!
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316024_tn?1248903426
Also he said to try blowing in her face to snap her out of it.  To console her as best I can but if nothing is working let her have her tantrum.  Lay her down somewhere out of harm.  I don't think I can just leave her so I will/would do anything to calm her down.  She did this 3x after leaving the hospital last night :(
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316024_tn?1248903426
Thanks Lance!!  Its the scariest thing ever!!  It breaks my heart every time she does this.  I just wish I knew more on what I can do to help her.  
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376739_tn?1317669990
Yes, blowing on their faces will help. It causes them to inhale.

Is she a larger baby (like in the 75 percentile for weight or more)? Perhaps that is why she'd be doing it earlier than 6 months.
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316024_tn?1248903426
She's 15 pounds since yesterday at the hospital.  I'm not sure what percentile she would be in?  But that's a good point, wouldn't of thought of that!  Thanks so much Joy :)
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Avatar_n_tn
Hey Megz!

The first time my daughter did this I totally freaked out.  Her face turned almost black and purple in just a few seconds and she passed out.  I called my mom in a panic only to be told -- "Oh yeah, honey, you did that too!"  We spent months babying her and worrying about her and warning day care workers and baby sitters about it.  We blew in her face, gently slapped her, etc. etc.  Then the first time it happened in day care, they just calmly, but sharply told her to "cut it out!"  Guess what?  It worked!  From then on, we would raise our voice to her, and tell her to get a grip.  It was particularly effective because I didn't believe in raising my voice to my children so it really got her attention.  It took less than a month for the episodes to disappear entirely.

Good luck!  
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316024_tn?1248903426
Thanks for your post!  How old was your daughter when she started doing this??  Funny because I phoned my mom in a panic every time and now knowing what it is she said the same thing.  I would pass out in my high chair etc... I just hate seeing my little girl like this.  
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Avatar_n_tn
She was just starting to pull herself up -- can't remember exactly how old, but I'll never forget her face.  For her, there was a connection between anything she felt wasn't fair.  She would become not just angry, but outraged is probably a better word.  The day-care incident was sparked when another child took one of her shoes and threw it over the fence.  When Becca went to the teacher to complain, she was told she shouldn't tattle.  So she was walking and talking when she had the last one.  Hard as it is, I found that paying particular attention to her and fussing over her only caused more episodes.  Try to walk away and let her see you doing something else when she comes out of it
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514428_tn?1287602056
Serious Holding breath spells is my daughter Ashlynd!!

She'll serious hold her breath and pass out.  Hitting her head on anything when she's standing straight upward and just like the movies, pass out falling where ever.  

This usually happens when she doesn't get what she wants and her feelings are hurt =(  
Her father used to do this as a child as well his Mother was telling me.  But do you know, how scary it is to see your 2 year old, blackout and just fall where ever and hurting herself physically (hitting her head off the floor, the couch ANYTHING)!!?!?  

The doctor I mentioned this too told me she's just a Drama Queen, but could it be more then that?  Seriously, she hurts herself so bad and she's been doing this since she was getting her 2 months shots...

My Mother in law said when it happens, she'll come too and breath normal again.  But wouldn't she be killing her brain cells without oxygen for atleast 1 minute when she holds her breath?  Plus having her head bang off everything when she falls, wouldn't that cause bleeding in the brain?  Something I'm going to have to look into more!!

It's just a very scary thing, and honestly might get worse before better....atleast thats what it looks like for my daughter!!!

-Brandi
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514428_tn?1287602056
This is what I found on a site and this screams Ashlynd all the way...The family history plays a big role and she's not the type that types blue either, she's the pale type...thinking I'm looking into this ALOT more.  Just never thought about it because she's done it for SO LONG.  Thank you for  posting this topic Meg!!

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This is a typical scene: A little child is playing happily, something upsets her, she exhales forcefully with a brief, shrill cry -- but she doesn't take another breath. You wait, but she still doesn't breathe. She looks as if she's crying, but no sound emerges. She begins to turn blue, her face strained, and still she is not breathing. Now she is unconscious, unresponsive, limp; the sight of her lifeless body is terrifying. Now her back arches, and her blue arms and legs begin to jerk uncontrollably. Your heart is pounding, frantic...

Breath-holding spells are perhaps the most frightening of the common, benign behaviors of childhood. Desperate parents often want to splash cold water on the child's face, start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or even begin CPR. Thankfully, breath-holding spells resolve spontaneously soon after the child passes out, and unless the fall hurts the child, she will be fine afterwards. The spell usually resolves within 30 to 60 seconds, with the child catching her breath and starting to cry or scream. Sometimes children will have real seizures as part of breath-holding spells, but these brief seizures are not harmful, and there is no increased risk of the child's developing a seizure disorder. Breath-holding spells occur in about 0.1 to 5% of children, usually between ages 6 months to 6 years old.

These spells are provoked by the child's not getting her own way. While they are triggered by a child being angry or surprised, they are thought to be reflexive, not intentional behaviors. Breath-holding is quite rare before 6 months of age. It peaks as children enter the twos, and disappears finally by about age five. The spells occur sporadically, but when they do occur, it is not uncommon for there to be several spells within a single day. Once parents have witnessed one breath-holding spell, they can often predict when another one is about to happen.

The first time a spell occurs, the parents should have the child examined by a doctor. Because breath-holding spells do share several features in common with seizure disorders, the two are often confused. In epileptic seizures, a child may turn blue, but it will be during or after the seizure, not before. Rarely, other medical conditions may look like breath-holding spells and a visit to the doctor's will help clarify the situation.

If your doctor confirms that the event was indeed a breath-holding spell, it is a good idea to check for anemia since there is an association between the two. Treating the anemia, if present, will often decrease the frequency of passing out. The parents' most important job, however, is to not reinforce the breath-holding behavior -- either by bending to the child's will or by paying more attention to her when she has these spells. Instead, if you are certain she hasn't choked on something, place her in a safe spot (without giving in to whatever she held her breath to achieve), and ignore her behavior.

There is another, far less common, type of breath-holding spell, where the child turns deathly pale instead of blue or purple. These pallid spells are involuntary and unpredictable. They are brought on by a sudden startle, such as falling and striking the head. The child stops breathing, goes limp, passes out, and rapidly drains of color. Pallid breath-holding spells also resolve spontaneously. These children should be examined by a doctor, both to confirm the diagnosis, and to prescribe a preventative medicine if the spells are frequent or severe. There is an even less common type of breath-holding spell associated with a rare genetic condition called familial dysautonomia (Riley Day Syndrome); these involuntary spells occur in children who are already acting seriously ill.

Breath-holding spells shine a brilliant spotlight on one of the biggest challenges of parenting. We do not like to disappoint the little children that we love so much. Moreover, we don't want to get into yet another battle with our children -- in the short run it is always easier to give in to a tantrum than to do what we instinctively feel is best. For parents of breath-holding children, this crucial struggle of parenthood is powerfully amplified.

Most would expect that a breath-holding spell would be difficult. Most are surprised, however, to find that in many ways, the biggest challenge is life between spells. Parents become timid about setting limits or disappointing their children because of the very real possibility of provoking another spell. For all of us, love consists of having the courage to act in spite of our fear.
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