Toddler Holding Breath When Cries & Passing Out! *Long*

Updated on May 21, 2012
K.C. asks from Boise, ID
10 answers

Hi ladies! So my toddler has started this new thing over the past month. We were at my sisters house watching football game. I had my 7 year old step daughter, my 22 month old son and my sis 3 year old daughter. They were playing in room and my son was playing on my Niece day bed and he fell off. I heard the "I am hurt cry" & got up. He was crying, I was asking my step daughter what happened, she said he rolled off bed, (bed is not high at all) well my son then was crying hard and was trying to take breath, and then all off sudden went limp and eyes weird, pretty sure he passed ou. I called 911 and they were there in minutes & by that time he was fine, but for a good 60 seconds or longer he acted dazed. They said he was fine & probably just hit his head maybe in right spot to make him loopy. There was no marks on him at all. Afterwards my mom said my younger sister would cry when she was a baby & she would pass out. Nothing you can do. Well, he has since done this a few times, his face and lips turning purple and him about passing out or passing out for a few seconds. I already had a appointment with his doctor & she said its normal at this age, it can cause seizures as well! Scary! That he will grow out of it. Has anyone went through this? Anything help? What did you do if they have seziure? I have been dealing with tummy issues with him as well, he is seeing GI doctor, and after many, many tests, they say its reflux, and again he will out grow, till then he throws up at least once a week, low on weight charts. He has eczema we have seen Asthema & allergy doctor for, and many tests done. He also had surgery 2.5 months ago for tubes in his ears, toncils & adenoids out. I fee bad for him, he has been through lots, and now this. Any info would be great!

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answers from New York on

I know it sounds weird but if you blow in their face hard it startles them and will stop them from holding their breath. Try it and hopefully it will work for you!!

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answers from San Diego on

My first did this. It was scary. But she's almost 27 years old and is fine, smart, and completely normal :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Wichita Falls on

My son did this. The first time I thought he was choking on something. It scared me to death. I talked to several people who all said that it wasn't uncommon (alot more boys than girls though). The more you react the worse it will get. When I let him pass out a couple of time without reacting to it, he stopped. I don't think he was trying to pass out, but the attention had him escalading his "i'm hurt" reaction untili he'd pass out.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My sister did this and we did what Diane S said, blew softly in her face and she'd stop (and be mad that we did it.) She used to want her way, cry and scream and hold her breath and would sometimes pass out, it so scared my mother, but she did eventually stop. She never had seizures, but she is bi-polar, I don't know if there was any connection.

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answers from Cincinnati on

My son would cry, hold his breath and pass out. I would walk around him and go downstairs. He got mad at my SIL house when I was out of town so he cried, held his breath and then he had a seizure. They did a CTScan but showed nothing so just to be absoultely sure, ran an EKG, EEG, and 2 other tests. He has undergone a lot of other testing because hes non-verbal and some developmental delays and mild mental retardation. Hes about to get tested for allergies for throwing up all the time. I feel your pain. I am pretty sure the crying and passing out thing is very normal for his age.

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answers from Chicago on

I did that when I was a toddler and grew out of it. One time I tripped over a cord, cried & held my breath until I passed out, and then b/c I was laying on my back, my tongue fell in the back of my throat and blocked my airway. Luckily, my mom was a nurse and figured it out. So, just keep an eye on him so he doesn't hurt himself when he passes out and let babysitters, teachers, grandparents know what to watch for.

(BTW, I had no condition that caused this and never had a seizure.)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My friends daughter did this when she was a toddler. She took her to the doctor and it was a behavioral thing that she would outgrow...and she did. She's 19 and perfectly healthy. I found something from dr. Greene's website that explains it better.


My daughter will be two years old in August. For a year she has had occasional periods when she passes out when crying too hard. It is always brought on from her being angry or upset. She holds her breath, her face becomes purple and her tongue looks purple, also. The whole breath-holding and passing out lasts only a few seconds. Afterwards, she will be sleepy and cry for 5 - 10 minutes. Then she is back to normal. Is she harming herself? Is this normal? Is this more serious than simply holding her breath? Her baby-sitter suggested that these may be seizures.

Sara Silva - Porterville, California

This is a typical scene: A little child is playing happily, something upsets her, she exhales forcefully with a brief, shrill cry -- but she doesn't take another breath. You wait, but she still doesn't breathe. She looks as if she's crying, but no sound emerges. She begins to turn blue, her face strained, and still she is not breathing. Now she is unconscious, unresponsive, limp; the sight of her lifeless body is terrifying. Now her back arches, and her blue arms and legs begin to jerk uncontrollably. Your heart is pounding, frantic...

Breath-holding spells are perhaps the most frightening of the common, benign behaviors of childhood. Desperate parents often want to splash cold water on the child's face, start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or even begin CPR. Thankfully, breath-holding spells resolve spontaneously soon after the child passes out, and unless the fall hurts the child, she will be fine afterwards. The spell usually resolves within 30 to 60 seconds, with the child catching her breath and starting to cry or scream. Sometimes children will have real seizures as part of breath-holding spells, but these brief seizures are not harmful, and there is no increased risk of the child's developing a seizure disorder. Breath-holding spells occur in about 0.1 to 5% of children, usually between ages 6 months to 6 years old.

These spells are provoked by the child's not getting her own way. While they are triggered by a child being angry or surprised, they are thought to be reflexive, not intentional behaviors. Breath-holding is quite rare before 6 months of age. It peaks as children enter the twos, and disappears finally by about age five. The spells occur sporadically, but when they do occur, it is not uncommon for there to be several spells within a single day. Once parents have witnessed one breath-holding spell, they can often predict when another one is about to happen.

The first time a spell occurs, the parents should have the child examined by a doctor. Because breath-holding spells do share several features in common with seizure disorders, the two are often confused. In epileptic seizures, a child may turn blue, but it will be during or after the seizure, not before. Rarely, other medical conditions may look like breath-holding spells and a visit to the doctor's will help clarify the situation.

If your doctor confirms that the event was indeed a breath-holding spell, it is a good idea to check for anemia since there is an association between the two. Treating the anemia, if present, will often decrease the frequency of passing out. The parents' most important job, however, is to not reinforce the breath-holding behavior -- either by bending to the child's will or by paying more attention to her when she has these spells. Instead, if you are certain she hasn't choked on something, place her in a safe spot (without giving in to whatever she held her breath to achieve), and ignore her behavior.



answers from Muncie on

I would startle my daughter out of those cries. Sometimes she would get so worked up and screaming she would forget to breath. After a quick check over to make sure nothing was broken or bleeding and if she was still screaming I would blow in her mouth. Not mouth to mouth, a bit away, like you would puff a bit of hair out of your own face. It would catch her attention and sort of shock her into breathing again. As long as he's actually fine and just worked up, a quick puff in the face might get him out of it. If you don't trust your own breath, try one of those bulb sucker things used to suck out nose gunk. A puff in the face with that should work just as well too.



answers from Tallahassee on

I am a mother of four. My oldest is 26 and youngest is 17. Everything you mentioned as far as health issues - I have been there. It is very scary when you find your child is turning blue/purple and there isn't anything you can do about it. Just remember that when it is caused by them "holding their breath" - they WILL pass out and when this happens their body takes over and they resume breathing. Unfortunately/fortunately you will get used to it. When the doctor first said that to me I thought he was insane. There was no way I was going to get used to this. Then one day I was shopping at Target with my sister. We were walking along talking and someone bumped my cart very gently. This startled my son who then stopped breathing. The woman who hit my cart was in full blown panic mode while I found myself putting my hand out to rest his head on while saying "Don't worry he does this all the time. He'll be fine" and then continued my conversation with my sister. You WILL get used to it. He continued to do this for the next few years - he was in preschool the last time he did it. The only passing out issue he has had since was when he was a teenager and we discovered he had a condition that caused his blood pressure to drop when he stood up too fast or took too hot a shower. Never even considered asking if there was any correlation between the two. My sister's son had reflux as a baby and would throw up almost everytime he ate. He did outgrow it fairly quickly. It is very common so not to worry too much. 3 of my 4 sons have had tubes in the ears. Having tubes in and adenoids removed is far better than having the eardrums burst repeatedly with infections. My oldest son had a 75% loss of hearing due to ear infections. Fortunately with surgery and no damage to the inner ear they were able to correct most of the hearing loss. Hang in there! You will be on to bike/skateboarding/snowboarding accidents, concussions from playing sports, and all the other wonderful parts of being a parent of a boy soon enough and these issues will be nothing more than stories you will tell.



answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter did this also. She is now 6 and has not had "an episode" for at least a year so I think she has outgrown it. The first time it happened she had also fallen off a bed...I was terrified! Thought she had a head injury or worse. After the 2nd and 3rd episode I sort of got to know and expected when it was going to happen. I would just lay her down in my arms, let her pass out and come to and comfort her. (I do believe it was a reflex that was mostly out of her control) She still is quite dramatic with some of her reactions to falls, cuts, bruises, etc...I wouldn't put it past her to be the type to pass out from the sight of blood (and mom and dad are both nurses!) My daughter did appear to have what looked like a small seizure with one of her episodes but if you think about it, it is a temporary loss of blood flow to the brain so seizure like activity wouldn't totally be unexpected. Still scary though!

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