Hyperventilation or overbreathing

Hyperventilation or overbreathing

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​When a person hyperventilates, they breathe more rapidly than they should. Due to rapid deep breaths more carbon dioxide is exhaled than produced in the body. Excessive reduction of carbon dioxide in the body leads to uncomfortable symptoms, which may be frightening. You can learn to control recurring symptoms.​

Hyperventilation can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as stress, lactic acid and caffeine. People who hyperventilate tend to have excessive upper chest movement and in stead of the diaphragm. Hyperventilation is most commonly linked to a panic attack but sometimes it may be due to a medical lung or heart condition. Hyperventilation and its symptoms may be brought on also voluntarily as a result of blowing out too much.

Symptoms

​Carbon dioxide reduction in the body associated with overbreating may cause the following symptoms:​

  • ​feeling of suffocation
  • chest pain
  • palpitations
  • numbness or tingling of hands
  • tremors
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • anxiety and fear relating to a panic attack

Self-care

​The symptoms of the first hyperventilation attack are often so frightening that a person quickly seeks medical attention. However, once the symptoms become more familiar, calming and relaxation techniques may be used to try to control the attacks. Peer groups and diaphragmatic breathing exercises may help to reduce the feeling of anxiety associated with the symptoms. Instructions on diaphragmatic breathing techniques, see the Rehabilitation Hub’s Guide to Breathing Techniques (in Finnish).

The traditional method of breathing into a paper bag is no longer recommended due to possible risks it may cause. However, you can try to control your breathing and breathe through pursed lips.

Tell your loved ones about your condition so that they are aware of your symptoms and recognise them, and can help you calm down.​

When should you seek medical advice?

​You should seek medical advice, if

  • you are experiencing hyperventilation for the first time. 
  • your symptoms are clearly different from your typical hyperventilation symptoms.

More information

The producers of the instruction

​​​​​Emergency care professionals have produced the instruction in collaboration with Terveyskirjasto.​

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Updated  22.4.2021