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  • Hyperventilation (hi-per-ven-tuh-lay-shun) is when your breathing is out of balance and the amounts of gases change in your blood. One of these gases is carbon dioxide (di-oks-ide). The amount of carbon dioxide in the blood drops with hyperventilation. You may need to have tests to find out if an illness is causing your hyperventilation. When there is no clear reason (serious illness, exercise) for this condition, it is called hyperventilation syndrome (HVS).
  • The cause of HVS is not exactly known. It is most often caused by anxiety, stress, or panic. Other causes may include medicines, imbalances in the chemicals in your body, and eating or drinking too much caffeine. You may have one or more of the following are the signs and symptoms of HVS.
    • Blurred vision.
    • Fast breathing and shortness of breath.
    • Fast heartbeat like your heart is racing.
    • Feel a loss of control of your emotions or a sense of panic.
    • Feeling numb, tingly, or muscle tightness around your mouth and in your hands and feet.
    • Feeling weak, dizzy, or faint.
    • Slow, deep sighing breathes that make you feel like you need to yawn a lot.


  • Medicines:
    • Keep a written list of what medicines you take and when and why you take them. Bring the list of your medicines or the pill bottles when you see your caregivers. Learn why you take each medicine. Ask your caregiver for information about your medicines. Do not take any medicines without first talking to caregivers.
    • Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. Call your caregiver if you think your medicines are not helping or if you feel you are having side effects. Do not quit taking it until you discuss it with your caregiver. If you are taking antibiotics (an-ti-bi-ah-tiks), take them until they are all gone even if you feel better.
    • If you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use heavy equipment.
    • You may be given medicine to help less your anxiety. Ask your caregiver which medicine may work for you.
  • Stress can cause illness. Since it is hard to avoid stress, learn to control it. You may need help to deal with the stress or anxiety that may be causing you to hyperventilate. Talk to someone about things that upset you. Family, friends, clergy, your caregiver, or a mental health worker may be able to help. Learn new ways to relax (deep breathing, meditation, relaxing muscles, music, or biofeedback).
  • During a hyperventilation attack, try to breathe slowly. Take 1 breath every 10 seconds. Breathe so that your abdominal (belly) muscles rise first with each breath (before your chest). Your caregiver will teach you how to breathe this way.
  • Drink 6 to 8 (soda-pop can size) glasses of liquid each day. Or, follow your caregiver's advice if you must limit the amount of liquid you drink. Good liquids to drink are water, juices, and milk. Limit the amount of caffeine you eat and drink, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and soda. Caffeine may make your attacks worse.
  • If you smoke, you should quit. Nicotine in tobacco may also trigger an attack. Smoking also harms the heart, lungs, and the blood. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease, and cancer if you smoke. It is never too late to quit. Not only will you help yourself but also those around you. If you have trouble quitting, talk to your caregiver about ways to quit.
  • Do NOT use the home remedy of breathing into a paper bag. This can be very dangerous because it may cause a lack of oxygen.


  • Your symptoms do not go away.
  • You have a sudden fever.


  • You have convulsions (seizures).
  • You have fainting spells or chest pain.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Hyperventilation (Discharge Care)

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