How to Tackle Breath-Holding in Toddlers

Your toddler is prone to tantrums from the age of eighteen months onwards, as he struggles to gain control over his temper. Your child’s desire to do what he wants, when he wants, can be so overwhelming that he explodes into an uncontrollable rage. Tears, screams, and even physical aggres­sion can result. However, some children express the fury of a tantrum in the form of breath-holding, when the child appears to swallow his tongue, stops breathing, and then faints. Breath-holding among young children is more common than you might think. There is no evidence that a breath-holding tantrum is caused by or results in any form of brain abnormality.

The sight of a breath-holding tantrum is terrifying and upsetting for parents; watching your child’s face turn a shade of blue as he gasps for air that he himself is blocking is absolutely awful. Remember, though, that this happens involuntarily—it is definitely not a deliberate, manipulative act on the part of your child. He can’t help himself, especially if he is three years old or younger. When your child recovers from the fainting episode, he’ll probably burst into tears and desperately want a cuddle.

Your child cannot harm himself during a breath-holding attack (unless he knocks his head falling over). The moment your child faints, his tongue muscles relax, which in turn instantly clears his airway. However, try to stop these attacks if possible. If you know your child is likely to have a breath-holding tantrum when he loses his temper, then calm things down before the child reaches the explosion point. When he does begin to hold his breath, help him move his tongue forward, either by opening his mouth and gently hooking your finger round the back of the tongue so that you can manually ease it forward, or by opening his mouth and gently blowing to the back of his throat. These methods do not always work but they are worth trying. Catch your child before he falls, to pre­vent injury.

Your toddler will probably not remember what happened once he recovers, but talk to him about it anyway. As your child grows older, he will be more aware of the process and might be able to halt the episode before it occurs. Your child will grow out of this method of expressing his temper by the age of five years at the latest.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care


About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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