Home treatment may help you control your breathing and stop hyperventilation. First, sit down and concentrate on your breathing.
- Breathe through pursed lips, as if you are whistling, or pinch one nostril and breathe through your nose. It is harder to hyperventilate when you breathe through your nose or pursed lips, because you can't move as much air.
- Slow your breathing to 1 breath every 5 seconds, or slow enough that symptoms gradually go away.
- Try belly-breathing, which fills your lungs fully, slows your breathing rate, and helps you relax.
- Place one hand on your belly just below the ribs. Place the other hand on your chest. You can do this while standing, but it may be more comfortable while you are lying on the floor with your knees bent.
- Take a deep breath through your nose. As you inhale, let your belly push your hand out. Keep your chest still.
- As you exhale through pursed lips, feel your hand go down. Use the hand on your belly to help you push all the air out. Take your time exhaling.
- Repeat these steps 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
Always try measures to control your breathing or belly-breathe first. If these techniques don't work and you don't have other health problems, you might try breathing in and out of a paper bag that covers your nose and mouth.
Using a paper bag
- Use a paper bag to control your breathing. Take 6 to 12 easy, natural breaths, with a small paper bag held over your mouth and nose. Then remove the bag from your nose and mouth and take easy, natural breaths.
- Next, try belly-breathing (diaphragmatic breathing).
- Alternate these techniques until your hyperventilation stops.
If hyperventilation continues for longer than 30 minutes, call your doctor immediately.
Do not use a paper bag if:
- You have any heart or lung problems, such as coronary artery disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, emphysema), or a history of deep vein thrombosis, stroke, or pulmonary embolism.
- Rapid breathing occurs at a high altitude [above 6000 ft (2000 m)]. Breathing faster than normal is a natural response to an increased altitude.
Follow these precautions when using the bag method:
- Do not use a plastic bag.
- Do not breathe continuously into a paper bag. Take 6 to 12 natural breaths, with a paper bag held over your mouth and nose, then remove the bag from your nose and mouth.
- Do not hold the bag for the person who is hyperventilating. Allow the person to hold the bag over his or her own mouth and nose.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Symptoms do not improve with home treatment measures.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.