Hyperventilation is a condition in which you breathe either faster or deeper than normal. This often causes shortness of breath and anxiety, and in severe cases can lead to muscle cramps. Calming down, inhaling and exhaling deeply, and breathing into a bag can help.
- More rapid or deeper breathing than normal
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Heart palpitations
- Pain in the chest
- Visual impairment
- After a few minutes, tingling can occur around the mouth and in the hands and feet
- This is followed by cramps (hyperventilation tetany), most commonly with contraction of the wrist and finger joints and the thumb (“obstetrician's hand”)
- At the same time it feels as if you're paralysed
- The cramps increase the anxiety, which contributes to the vicious cycle of hyperventilation
- More rarely, muscle contraction and trembling occur throughout the body
Causes and treatment
- Mostly emotional (psychological) causes, e.g. agitation, stress, fear, anger
- More rarely caused by brain diseases, cardiac insufficiency, bronchial asthma, metabolic disorders (overactive thyroid, diabetes) and poisoning
Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital
- Blood test
- Calcium (reduces the consequences of hyperventilation)
What can I do myself?
- The first measure is to calm the hyperventilating person down
- Slowly and deeply breathe in through the mouth and out through the nose
- If the hyperventilating person breathes into a plastic bag, the exhaled carbon dioxide is returned to their lungs and the cramps disappear quickly
When to see a doctor?
- Own measures are unsuccessful and hyperventilation doesn't stop