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Breath-Holding Spells - Topic Overview

How are breath-holding spells diagnosed?

Doctors can usually diagnose breath-holding spells based on what happens during a spell. The doctor will examine your child and ask you to describe the spells. It may help for you to keep a record of what happens during each spell.

If your doctor thinks that your child has a seizure disorder or another condition, such as iron deficiency anemia, your child may need other tests.

How are they treated?

Most children don't need treatment for breath-holding spells. Spells will go away as your child gets older. If your doctor thinks that a medical condition is causing the spells, your child may need treatment.

To decrease the chance of more spells, make sure that your child gets plenty of rest, and try to help your child feel secure. Be sure to tell your child's doctor if your child starts to have spells more often or if they seem worse or different than before.

Breath-holding spells can be frustrating for parents. If you have trouble dealing with your child's spells or find yourself getting angry, talk with your doctor or a counselor. Try to keep in mind that your child isn't having spells on purpose.

What should you do when your child has a breath-holding spell?

To protect your child during a spell, lay your child on the floor and keep his or her arms, legs, and head from hitting anything hard or sharp.

Your child may stop breathing for up to 1 minute (60 seconds) during a spell. If your child doesn't wake up quickly and start breathing again, call 911 or other emergency services. The 911 operator may tell you to give your child rescue breaths camera.gif while you wait for help to arrive.

After the spell, reassure your child. Don't punish him or her for having the spell.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 21, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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