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Hyperventilation (Latin name)

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Hyperventilation is an unnecessary rapid and deep breathing, most commonly seen in connection with anxiety. The signs of hyperventilation are: prick of face and fingers, numbness in the mouth, difficulty speaking, dizziness and convulsive contractions in the fingers. The condition is completely harmless and can be easily treated with calming or re-inhalation in a bag.

Hyperventilation is the term for an unnecessary rapid and deep breathing. If the body lacks oxygen, you automatically begin to breathe faster and deeper - it is a necessary reaction to oxygen deficiency. By hyperventilation, you breathe quickly and deeply even though you do not have an oxygen deficiency - so unnecessary. The condition is most commonly seen in connection with anxiety, prolonged stress or drug abuse.

When you breathe quickly and deeply, the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood drops and it gives some unpleasant symptoms. It begins with dots on the face and fingers. Later there is numbness in the mouth and tongue and it can be difficult to speak clearly. Dizziness and contractions in the fingers are common. If the condition lasts you will faint.

The symptoms of hyperventilation are scary and will exacerbate a permanent anxiety. Many feel they are getting suffocated and are afraid of that they will die. The condition is completely harmless and can be easily treated.

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What can you do?

If you have previously had hyperventilation, you know the symptoms and can soothe yourself that it is harmless. Try to breathe slowly and completely into your stomach.
If it does not help to try and calm down the person, you must re-breathe in a bag - breathe with a bag in front of your mouth. Breath in and out with the bag over the mouth, so that the bag is inflated and emptied. After a few minutes of inhalation, your carbon dioxide rises in the blood and the symptoms disappear. 

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If you have multiple seizures of hyperventilation, there may be a need for conversations with your doctor or referral to a psychologist.

Contact the doctor immediately

If not calming down the person or re-inhalation in a bag helps.