General information

When a person hyperventilates, they breathe more rapidly than they should. The breaths are either too fast or irregular or too deep.

Hyperventilation can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as stress. If hyperventilation is frequent and associated with the typical symptoms, the condition is referred to as hyperventilation syndrome.

Hyperventilation may involve a wide range of symptoms such as a feeling of suffocation, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, irregular breathing or gasping for air, palpitations and various sensations in the chest, numbness or tingling, dizziness, headache, disturbances of vision, difficulty to concentrate, anxiety and fear of death, weakness, tremors and a feeling of a lump in the throat.


If you have experienced hyperventilation before and you are familiar with the symptoms, you can try and manage the attack with various relaxation techniques. It is important that people close to you are aware of your symptoms and can recognise them and can help you calm you down. Peer support groups may also be helpful in managing the attack in the long run.

The traditional method of breathing into a paper bag is no longer recommended.

When should you seek medical advice?

If you are experiencing hyperventilation for the first time or if your symptoms are clearly different from your typical symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical advice to assess the situation.

This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto

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Updated  5.6.2020