HYPERVENTILATION SYNDROME (Panic Attack)
Hyperventilation syndrome is breathing so fast that carbon-dioxide levels in the blood are decreased, temporarily upsetting normal blood chemistry. The central nervous system--including the brain, the coverings of the brain (meninges), and the spinal cord -- and peripheral nerves, lungs, skin, hands, and feet are involved. Hyperventilation syndrome is more common in young adults than in children, but it can affect all ages.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications, if the cause is organic or symptoms are prolonged.
Psychotherapy or counseling, if hyperventilation occurs often and is caused by anxiety.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSRapid breathing.
Numbness and tingling around the mouth, hands, and feet.
Weakness or faintness.
Muscle spasm or contractions in the hands and feet.
A change in the normal ratio of acid to other elements in the blood caused by breathing out too much carbon dioxide. Hyperventilation can accompany fever, diseases of the heart and lungs, or severe injury. If disease or injury is not present, hyperventilation is caused by anxiety.
Feelings of guilt.
Fatigue or overwork.
Illness, such as those listed above.
Excess alcohol consumption.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Encourage your child to avoid anxiety-producing situations.
See Appendix 19 for suggestions to reduce the child's stress.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Appropriate laboratory studies to help establish a precise diagnosis.
PROBABLE OUTCOMEIf hyperventilation is caused by a disease, it will stop when the disease is cured.
Recurrent attacks caused by anxiety should stop if underlying stress can be eliminated.
Symptoms can be controlled with the following instructions:
HOME CAREDuring an attack, your child should follow these instructions to increase carbon dioxide in the blood and relieve symptoms:
Cover your mouth and nose completely with a paper bag.
Breathe slowly into the bag and rebreathe the air. The air in the bag contains additional carbon dioxide.
Breathe slowly in and out of the bag at least 10 times.
Put the bag aside and breathe normally a few minutes.
Repeat the process until the symptoms diminish or disappear.
If symptoms return, repeat the process as often as needed.
MEDICATIONMedicine usually is not necessary for this disorder.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
After treatment, your child can resume normal activity as soon as possible.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of hyperventilation that don't diminish with self-treatment.
The following occurs during an attack:
-- Sudden fever.