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Understanding and Avoiding Breath Holding

Breath holding spells are surprisingly common for preschoolers and kindergarteners, but that doesn't mean that they are any less scary. During a breath holding spell your child may turn blue, faint, or even appear as though they are having a seizure. Despite the anxiety that these spells are sure to cause, parents should remain calm and understand why these spells occur so that they can help their child recover from them and, if possible, avoid them completely.

Temper Tantrums Lead to Breath Holding

Temper tantrums have been pinpointed as a catalyst for breath holding spells, as they get the child so worked up that their bodies involuntarily stop breathing. While avoiding temper tantrums is challenging, you can take steps to decrease the odds that your child will have a breath holding spell.

  • Calm down. Oftentimes, parents know when a tantrum is on the horizon, so if you detect that your child's temper is about to flare go ahead and try to turn their attention to something else. Giving in to a tantrum will only reinforce your toddler's belief that crying is a means by which to their way, but if you avoid the tantrum totally you can curb both a spell and the need to dole out punishment.
  • Minimize risk of injury. While your child is going through a spell, move him or her to a place that is safe. Lay your toddler comfortably on the floor, away from objects, so that he or she can come out of the spell without the risk of hitting their head or one of their limbs on a table, chair, or other piece of furniture.
  • Don't overanalyze the situation. While breath holding spells can be extremely scary to witness, remember that it is a natural response that many kids have to overexertion or overstimulation, especially when they are scared or upset. Your child will outgrow these spells, so just focus on maintaining a safe environment and let nature take care of the rest.

Focusing your thoughts is indescribably difficult when your child is going through a traumatic event, but as a parent you must keep your attention on the needs of your little one, not on the emotions that are surely fighting for control of your thoughts.