Hyperventilation is characterized by breathing too rapidly or deeply. In most cases, hyperventilation is accompanied by anxiety. Breathing excessively can lead to imbalances in the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. The resulting imbalances can cause dizziness, breathlessness, confusion, lightheadedness or weakness.
This condition can occur to anyone. Generally, adults breathe at 8-16 breaths per minute. If it exceeds this rate, it is considered as hyperventilation or tachypnea. Even though hyperventilation and tachypnea are relatively the same, hyperventilation is usually linked to anxiety or stress.
The indications of hyperventilation are linked to having insufficient carbon dioxide in the blood. Breathing rapidly lowers the amount of carbon dioxide which disrupts with the balance in the body. The common indications include the following:
- Chest pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Tingling or numbness
- Using certain medications especially stimulants
- Health history of panic attacks or anxiety
- Family history of anxiety or panic attacks
- Having panic disorders such as phobia
Hyperventilation is managed by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. This is done by changing the breathing patterns. In severe cases, medications might be needed to manage the condition.
Behavior modification and education are vital factors in the management of hyperventilation and prevention of recurrent episodes. In addition, psychological counselling has shown to be beneficial to individuals with panic or anxiety disorders that lead to the condition.
Changes in the breathing patterns can help reduce hyperventilation such as the following:
- Breathing via one nostril
- Pursed lips while breathing
- Verbal support from family and friends
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on hyperventilation is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage respiratory issues by taking a standard first aid course with Mississauga First Aid.