Breath-holding is when a baby or child stops breathing for up to 1 minute and may faint. It can happen when a child is frightened, upset, angry, or has a sudden shock or pain. It's usually harmless but can be scary for parents, particularly when it happens for the first time.
These could be symptoms of breath-holding, but could also be related to other, more serious conditions. If a doctor has not previously told you it's breath-holding, it's important to get it checked immediately.
During breath-holding, your child may:
Your child may be sleepy or confused for a while afterwards.
Although breath-holding can be scary for parents, it's usually harmless and your child should grow out of it by the age of 4 or 5.
Your child is not doing it on purpose and cannot control what happens when they have a breath-holding episode.
your child has already been diagnosed with breath-holding and:
The GP will try to find out if there's a more serious underlying condition. They may suggest an ECG to check your child's heart rhythm.
There's no specific treatment for breath-holding. It should eventually stop by the time your child is 4 or 5 years old.
Medicines are rarely used to treat breath-holding.
Breath-holding is sometimes related to iron deficiency anaemia.
Your child's blood iron levels may be checked. They may need iron supplements if their iron levels are low.
Breath-holding is usually triggered by a sudden shock or pain, or strong emotions like fear, upset or anger.
There are 2 types of breath-holding:
This is the most common type of breath-holding and happens when a child's breathing pattern changes.
This type of breath-holding happens when a child's heart rate slows down.
Find out more: