How to Treat Breath Holding Spells?

  • January 09, 2024
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How to Treat Breath Holding Spells?

What are Breath Holding Spells?

Breath Holding Spells (BHS) manifest as a temporary halt in breathing, often coupled with a change in skin color due to oxygen deprivation. Typically occurring in infants and young children aged 6 months to 2 years, these episodes involve the child involuntarily holding their breath, leading to a brief loss of consciousness—a distressing experience for parents and caregivers.

Parents may be alarmed if their young child reacts to sudden pain or distress by exhibiting a momentary cessation of breathing, turning blue or pale, and subsequently fainting; this is indicative of a breath-holding spell. Commonly occurring in otherwise healthy children, these episodes, often mistaken for seizures, are distinctive phenomena. Fortunately, breath-holding spells pose no harm to the child, with many outgrowing them by the age of 6 or 7, and they are most prevalent around 2 years old. Two main types, cyanotic and pallid spells, can be identified, with cyanotic spells being more frequently observed in these occurrences.

Why do Breath Holding Spells Occur?

Breath Holding Spells are believed to result from an involuntary reflex triggered by a sudden, intense emotional response, such as anger, frustration, or pain. In some cases, the spells may be linked to an underlying medical condition, such as iron deficiency anemia. The exact cause of breath-holding spells is not fully understood, but the emotional trigger is a common factor.