Is It Normal for Children to Hold Their Breath?

Print this page Bookmark and Share
Parents

My 2-year-old recently started to hold his breath when he doesn't get what he wants, and it terrifies me. Is this normal?
LaVonne

As frightening as it may be when your son holds his breath, it's actually quite common among toddlers — and is likely to be more alarming to you than it is dangerous for him.

The best response to such behavior is to make sure he is safe, look the other way, and try to stay relaxed. Responding will only serve as positive reinforcement, and most kids outgrow breath-holding episodes by the time they are 4 or 5 years old.

But do let your doctor know about these spells, since occasionally other medical conditions can look similar. The doctor might want to test for anemia, which is sometimes associated with breath holding. When the anemia is treated, kids are often less likely to pass out when holding their breath.

Occasionally, kids may pass out for 30–60 seconds during a breath-holding spell. If this happens, talk with your doctor to be sure nothing more serious is going on.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: February 2010



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.


Related Articles

Breath-Holding Spells Kids who have these spells hold their breath until they pass out. Although upsetting to watch, the spells are not harmful and do not pose any serious, long-term health risks.
Your Child's Habits Nail biting, hair twirling, thumb sucking, and nose picking - these childhood habits are common. Here's how to deal with them.
Taming Tempers Controlling outbursts can be difficult for kids - and helping them learn to do so?is a tough job for the parents who love them. But just about every child can improve with the right coaching.
Temper Tantrums Temper tantrums range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. Get the facts on managing - and preventing - temper tantrums.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2013 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

Upcoming Events

Join Dayton Children's at the African American Cultural Festival. Learn about safe sleep for babies.

Value Added Packaging is hosting its 2nd annual Open House Job Fair Charity Event on Saturday, August 23.

Learn about healthy lifestyles!

Car Seat Safety Check

View full event calendarView full event calendar

Health and Safety

Your child's health and safety is our top priority

Accreditations

The Children's Medical Center of Dayton Dayton Children's
The Right Care for the Right Reasons

One Children's Plaza - Dayton, Ohio - 45404-1815
937-641-3000
www.childrensdayton.org