It is scary when you see you child stop breathing. These spells occurs in 5% of the population in an equal distribution between both genders. But they mostly occur when the child is frustrated, angry, afraid or in pain. This condition does not occur on purpose but it is reflex. These spells usually are absent in children above the age of five and most common in those between six months and eighteen months. There are four types of breath holding spells. Some kids may have all types of spells.
Pallid spell: usually caused by slowing heart rate of the child, in response to painful event.
Simple breath holding spell: results in the expiration and holding in of breath. Recovery of this kind is spontaneous.
Cyanotic spell: arise from anger or frustration which leads to changes in the breathing pattern. Skin turns blue-purple or red.
Complicated spell: is the severest form of all types. It usually begins as either a pallid or cyanotic spell. It is associated with seizure-like activity.
The spells are caused by slowing heart rate or changes in child’s breathing brought about by emotions or pain. In some children, the spells is associated with and exaggerated by low number of red blood cells which is related to iron deficiency (anemia). Some of the symptoms include fainting, changes in skin color, changes in heart rate and breathing, twitching and crying.
Diagnosis is done through examination by the doctor and description of sequences during the spell and history. If it is suspected that, the spell is caused by anemia, further tests may be carried out.
There is no treatment available for a breathing holding spell. In the long run (above the age of five years), the child would outgrow them. Plenty of rest reduces the chances of getting breath holding spells. To protect children during a spell, parents should lay their children on the floor and keep his/ her legs, head and arms from hitting hard surfaces.
Consult your physician if your child is regularly having a breathing spell.