Breath-Holding Spells: Helping Your Child Avoid Injury

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Topic Overview

To keep your child safe during a breath-holding spell :

  • Lay your child on the floor on his or her back, facing either upward or to one side.
  • Protect your child's head, arms, and legs from hitting something hard or sharp accidentally.
  • If your child was eating before a spell, open his or her mouth carefully and look for pieces of food, but do not try to remove food with your fingers. Instead, tilt your child's head to the side so the food can come out on its own.
  • Touch and talk to your child. This helps you stay calm.
  • Time the spell with a watch. Spells usually last only a minute but seem longer.
  • Do not give your child any medicines during a spell.
  • Allow your child to wake up on his or her own after a spell.

Your child may stop breathing for up to 1 minute (60 seconds) during a spell. If your child doesn't wake up quickly and start breathing again, call 911 or other emergency services. The 911 operator may tell you to give your child rescue breaths while you wait for help to arrive.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics

Specialist Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics

Current as ofAugust 21, 2015

Current as of: August 21, 2015