Hyperventilation is an excessively high respiratory rate. it is commonly associated with the feeling of not being able to catch your breath. Hyperventilation is rapid or deep breathing that can occur with anxiety or panic. It is also called overbreathing, and it may leave you feeling breathless.

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You breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Excessive breathing creates low levels of carbon dioxide in your blood. This causes many of the symptoms of hyperventilation.

The most common symptoms accompanying hyperventilation include:

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  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Heart palpitations
  • Light-headedness
  • Muscle spasms in the hands and feet
  • Numbness and tingling around the mouth
  • Numbness and tingling in the arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Weakness

If you encounter a person who is hyperventilating, try persuading the person to relax. The person should sit down and focus on slower breathing by taking only one breath every five seconds. You can also try the old paper bag trick. Breathing into a paper bag for a few minutes might help slow the breathing. Of course, it’s difficult to find paper bags anymore. Under no circumstances should you use a plastic bag! If a paper bag isn’t available, have the person breath into a cup or similar container.


We also offer a free certificate of completion. To receive the certificate you must pass a 50-question test with a score of 70 or higher. Check our Basic First Aid Certificate of Completion page for more information.

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