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Hyperventilation

Is holding your breath dangerous?

Is holding your breath dangerous?
July 04, 2010 12:00PM
Is holding your breath dangerous?


One of the most intriguing questions is whether holding your breath is dangerous when you suffer from hyperventilation? In some books concerning hyperventilation this has been mentioned. Reason for the Foundation to ask this question to three independent medical panels. Here you can read the answers of those panels to the questions we asked:

1. Is it indeed dangerous to hold your breath (as long as possible)?

2. Is holding your breath more dangerous for people suffering from hyperventilation then for people that do not suffer from hyperventilation?

3. Are there medical conditions where holding your breath could entail extra risk?

The answers from www.vraagdedokter.nl:

1. Holding your breath by itself is not dangerous, but for controlling a hyperventilation attack it can be very helpful. Try for your self to hold your breath: as a reaction to it you will breath deeply several times afterwards. After that the effect of holding your breath will be gone again. A simple trick is to exhale in little steps, with two seconds between the exhales.

2. No.

3. Yes, but basically for people suffering from heart problems (but only when there are acute problems).

The answers from www.dokter.nl:

1. Under certain circumstances it can be dangerous to hold your breath. The oxygen levels in the blood will go down and the carbon dioxide levels will go up. Because of this the acidity /alkaline equilibrium will change and for certain persons this could lead to heart rhythm abnormalities. Commonly this will happen to the elderly which already be suffering from heart problems, but certainly not for the most common group of people suffering from hyperventilation.

2. The answer to question 1 is actually also the answer to question number 2. Basically there is no difference for people that suffer from hyperventilation or people that do not.

3. For this, also see the answer to question number 1.

The answers from www.mijnspecialist.nl:

Your question is rather complex and will be answered by 2 specialists:

1. Normally it is not dangerous to hold your breath as long as you can. There is the distinct breathing trigger, caused by the rising of the carbon dioxide level in the blood when you do not breathe. Usually the rising carbon dioxide level is a dominant trigger to breathe, rather then the lowering of the oxygen level is a cause to loose consciousness.

2. No. A specific problem could be in the swimming pool: people could drown because of prior severe hyperventilation. The trigger to breathe can be delayed too long, causing them to go unconscious under water and drown. When still on the surface they might loose concienceness, but if they do they will start breathing again, and regain consciousness. Not a nice thing to happen though..

3. There are a few things to remember:

If a person hyperventilates, it can be a common issue (the kind you can treat with your therapy). It means there is no clear physical cause to the hyperventilation. But it can also be that a person is hyperventilating because of an illness. Examples of this are lung embolism, heart disorder, etc. So it is important to rule out these kind of causes before starting treatment for hyperventilation. And only a medically trained physician can do that.

A category of people with heavy COPD ("chronical bronchitis, emphysema, smoking"winking smiley will probably have a hard time trying to hold their breath. For those people there is already a low oxygen level in the blood due to the reduced exchange of gasses in the lungs. Equally there will be a higher carbon dioxide level, causing these people to breathe faster then normal already. Also people suffering from hypoxemia (= low oxygen level in the blood) from other reasons (e.g. heart disorders), can get into problems when holding their breath for a long time. Therefore patients with severe lung or heart disorders should be expelled from the therapy.


HyperVen Foundation

Answers provided by HyperVen Foundation are given with the utmost care. The answers are based on experience only and can never be regarded as a medical consult, a treatment of a trained physician or medical information.

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