When children stop breathing which in some cases leads to blackout (unconsciousness) and is for a short interval that lasts up to 1 minute is called Breath holding Spell. When a child is having emotions of anxiety, or fear or anger, it leads to breath holding spells. Breath holding spells are not in control of the kids as they are involuntary reflexes. Breath holding spells are common in infants who are 2 years of age. However, it can happen in healthy children between 6 months and 6 years old. They can be more prevalent among children with a family background of BHS. They are not convulsions even if they appear like so.There are two types of breath holding spells:
- A cyanotic spell is triggered by a change in the normal breathing tempo of the infant, typically in reaction to feeling upset or angry. It's the most common type. Breathing of the child is too fast and the colour of the lips may turn red or blue-purple.
- A pallid spell is caused by the heart rate of the child going slow, usually in response to pain. Breathing of the child is slow and the skin may be pale and sweaty.
Breath holding spells cannot be determined by carrying out a specific test. Sometimes anemia may be responsible; however physician takes the decision after hearing all symptoms and patient history.
Symptoms of breath holding spells
- Twitching of muscles and arch back
- Changes in breathing and heartbeat
- Body becomes stiff
- Jerking of body
- Sweating Profusely
What to do when your child is having breath holding spells?
During a breath-holding spell, you do not need to do something most of the time. Till the spell is over, your child should remain lying down. Do not panic, stay calm, and carry out the following tips during and after breath holding spells:
- Check the mouth of your child for food or other things that might pose a danger of choking until your child regains consciousness.
- When your child has Breath Holding Spells, clear any items or furniture within sight.
- During the spell, have your child lie down as this will increase blood flow to the brain.
- Set a cold, wet washcloth on the forehead of your infant. Keep it on before he or she begins to breathe properly. Please refrain from providing breathing aid through your mouth.
Usually, children with breath-holding spells resume breathing after a minute. Get emergency attention if this is your child's first breath-holding spell. Although breath-holding spells aren't dangerous, having your child checked out is good. If breath-holding spells are regular, it is best to see a doctor. A doctor will decide whether a breath-holding spell or another medical disorder looks like one.
Usually, breath-holding spells are caused by either a difference in the breathing of the infant or a slowing in the heart rate. These responses can be caused by anxiety or intense feelings. As said above, iron deficiency anemia can cause breath-holding spells for kids. So, to check for anaemia, a doctor may do a blood test. Anemia treatment can help reduce the number of spells that occur. Breath holding spells will scare the parents, but they are generally harmless.