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?
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
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|Breath-Holding Spells Kids who have these spells hold their breath until they pass out. Although upsetting to watch, the spells are not harmful and do not pose any serious, long-term health risks.|
|Taming Tempers Controlling outbursts can be difficult for kids - and helping them learn to do so is a tough job for the parents who love them. But just about every child can improve with the right coaching.|
|Temper Tantrums Temper tantrums range from whining and crying to screaming, kicking, hitting, and breath holding. Get the facts on managing - and preventing - temper tantrums.|
|Your Child's Habits Nail biting, hair twirling, thumb sucking, and nose picking - these childhood habits are common. Here's how to deal with them.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.