Hyperventilation Syndrome

Hyperventilation syndrome is the medical term for losing control of your breathing. You may find yourself breathing too fast or too deeply. This can be triggered by pain, anxiety, or emotional stress. If hyperventilation continues for more than a few minutes, it can lead to a number of frightening symptoms, such as:

  • Numbness and tingling of the hands, feet, and face

  • Clenching of the fingers or toes

  • Dizziness

  • Feeling like you can't get enough air

  • Chest pains

  • Fainting or feeling like you are going to faint

Once these symptoms begin, it is often hard to stop them, because they lead to a cycle of more anxiety and more hyperventilation. It is important to understand that this is not a life-threatening condition. It will pass once you are able to relax. Relaxation and stress-management techniques can be learned and practiced when you are not hyperventilating. These techniques can help in the event of a future attack.

Home care

Rest today until you feel back to normal. If symptoms return, take the following steps to care for yourself:

  • Sit or lie down. Remember that what is happening to you is temporary and will pass.

  • Use the relaxation methods you have learned.

Note: It is no longer recommended to breathe into a paper bag.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Redness, pain, or swelling of the leg

  • Ringing in your ears

  • Severe headache

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Weakness or fainting

  • Increasing shortness of breath

  • Coughing up blood

  • Chest pain that is made worse with each breath

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