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First Aid and Emergencies

Hyperventilation

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

When you breathe very fast and deep (hyperventilate), the carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) level in your blood can drop too low. Symptoms that may occur with hyperventilation include:

Prevention

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If you have hyperventilated before:

  • Ask people to tell you if you start to breathe too fast.

  • As soon as you notice fast breathing or other symptoms, slow your breathing to 1 breath every 5 seconds, or slow enough that symptoms gradually go away.

Home Treatment

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  • Sit down and concentrate on slowing your breathing.

  • Practise a relaxation technique. See Relaxation Skills.

  • Hold a paper bag over your nose and mouth and breathe in and out. This will help bring the amount of CO 2 in your blood back to normal. Continue doing this off and on for 5 to 15 minutes.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If hyperventilation occurs in a person who doesn't appear tense or anxious. See Anxiety to help determine if a person is anxious.

  • If anxiety and hyperventilation are frequent and interfere with your daily activities.

    Taking a Pulse

    The pulse is the rate at which a person's heart beats. As the heart pumps blood through the body, you can feel a throbbing in the arteries wherever they come close to the skin's surface. Most of the time, the pulse is taken at the wrist, neck, or upper arm.

    • Count the pulse after a person has been sitting or resting quietly for 5 to 10 minutes.

    • Place 2 fingers gently against the wrist as shown (don't use your thumb).

    • If it is hard to feel the pulse in the wrist, locate the carotid artery in the neck, just to either side of the windpipe. Press gently.

    • Count the beats for 30 seconds; then double the result to calculate beats per minute.

    Normal resting pulse :

    Newborn to 12 months: 100-160 beats/minute

    1 through 6 years: 65-140 beats/minute

    7 through 10 years: 60-110 beats/minute

    11 years through adult: 50-100 beats/minute

    Certain illnesses can cause the pulse to increase, so it is helpful to know what your resting pulse rate is when you are well. The pulse rate rises about 10 beats per minute for every degree of fever.

 

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