Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation is breathing that is deeper and more rapid than normal. It is usually associated with panic and anxiety. Hyperventilation can make you feel breathless. It is sometimes called overbreathing. Breathing out too much causes a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide gas in the blood. This leads to tingling and numbness in the hands, feet, and around the mouth. If this continues, your fingers, hands, and toes may begin to spasm. Hyperventilation usually lasts 20–30 minutes and can be associated with other symptoms of panic and anxiety, including:

  • Chest pains or tightness.

  • A pounding or irregular, racing heartbeat (palpitations).

  • Dizziness.

  • Lightheadedness.

  • Dry mouth.

  • Weakness.

  • Confusion.

  • Sleep disturbance.

CAUSES

Sudden onset (acute) hyperventilation is usually triggered by acute stress, anxiety, or emotional upset. Long-term (chronic) and recurring hyperventilation can occur with chronic lung problems, such emphysema or asthma. Other causes include:

  • Nervousness.

  • Stress.

  • Stimulant, drug, or alcohol use.

  • Lung disease.

  • Infections, such as pneumonia.

  • Heart problems.

  • Severe pain.

  • Waking from a bad dream.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Bleeding.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Learn and use breathing exercises that help you breathe from your diaphragm and abdomen.

  • Practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress, such as visualization, meditation, and muscle release.

  • During an attack, try breathing into a paper bag. This changes the carbon dioxide level and slows down breathing.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your hyperventilation continues or gets worse.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.