Hyperventilation simply means to breath more than necessary. Hyperventilation syndrome typically refers to hyperventilation that is caused by anxiety or a panic attack. Hyperventilation syndrome is not life-threatening, but can lead to a significant decrease in carbon dioxide. Hyperventilation syndrome is scary and leads to increased anxiety, which makes the hyperventilation syndrome worse.
Time Required: Depends on the severity
- Stay Safe! Victims of hyperventilation syndrome may have anxiety disorders that cause erratic or dangerous behavior.
- Use a calm voice and demeanor to address the victim. Anxiety is contagious, but so is serenity. If you are calm, it will be easier for the victim to become calm.
- Determine that the victim is actually suffering from hyperventilation syndrome. There are many causes of shortness of breath that can lead to breathing patterns similar to hyperventilation syndrome. Look for the symptoms of hyperventilation syndrome. Numbness and tingling in the fingers and lips are very common. Spasms in the hands and feet are also common in hyperventilation syndrome.
- Encourage the victim to breath slow and deep. One trick is to have the victim hold his or her breath for as long as possible, then exhale and hold another breath. Have the victim repeat this exercise until he or she begins to feel less anxious.
- If the victim is complaining of chest pain that doesn't go away, especially with a history of heart disease, call 911.
- Hyperventilation syndrome is not a respiratory disease. It is an emotional condition. Staying calm is the most important method to help control it.
- NEVER BREATH INTO A PAPER BAG! This advice is commonly found on the internet and through other sources, but it does not necessarily solve the problem (low carbon dioxide). More importantly, it can cause dangerously low oxygen levels.