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Behavioral and Emotional Wellness

Is It Normal for Children to Hold Their Breath?

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My 2-year-old recently started to hold his breath when he doesn't get what he wants, and it terrifies me. Is this normal?
- LaVonne

As frightening as it may be when your son holds his breath, it's actually quite common among toddlers — and is likely to be more alarming to you than it is dangerous for him.

The best response to such behavior is to make sure he is safe, look the other way, and try to stay relaxed. Responding will only serve as positive reinforcement, and most kids outgrow breath-holding episodes by the time they're 5 or 6 years old.

Occasionally, kids may pass out for 30-60 seconds during a breath-holding spell. If this happens, talk with your doctor to be sure nothing more serious is going on. The doctor might want to test for anemia, which is sometimes associated with breath holding. When the anemia is treated, kids are often less likely to pass out when holding their breath.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

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