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Breath-Holding: Is it a Cause For Alarm and What You Can Do About it

Paul Banas
Author Paul Banas
Submitted 10-01-2007

Although it is very common, watching toddlers holding their breath can be a frightful thing for a parent to experience. Some call it the ‘nuclear option’ in a child’s weaponry. About 20 percent of toddlers use this technique to express their discontent or to get what they want – and considering the effect, they often do.

These spells are usually part of a child’s temper tantrums. Here are a few common signs to look out for:

  • Breathing out forcefully followed by holding breath for a long time

  • Turning pale or blue
Soon after one of the above signs show up, chances are your toddlers will pass out and collapse to the ground. In some cases, your toddler’s legs and arms may twitch and the body may suffer mild convolutions. This situation usually lasts for under a minute and is not a medical condition over which you should be worried.

Even though this is a common tantrum it should be stringently discouraged. Here are a few tips on how to avoid a breath-holding tantrum in your toddler:

  • Do not pay overmuch attention to such tantrums.

  • Find out the possible cause behind such behavior and eliminate the cause.

  • Try to divert your toddler’s attention to a pleasant situation making the toddler forget the whole idea of breath holding.
If your toddler succumbs to this tantrum, remember:

  • Do not panic—toddlers may take advantage of the fact that you are scared and resort to tantrums more often to get what they want.

  • Make your toddler lie down to increase the flow of blood to the brain and within seconds it will be alright.

  • The first time this happens, you may consider taking your toddler to the doctor to ensure it is a breath-holding tantrum indeed.