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Forum Name: Pediatric Topics

Question: Breath Holding


 molly12 - Mon Dec 24, 2007 4:01 pm

My 4 month old twin when he gets a pain he cries for a few seconds, can't catch breath, turns purple for 30 seconds, then eyes roll up then goes limp for few seconds. Could this be a seizure? or if the pain is so bad that he cries so hard he cant catch his breath?

Concerned mother
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Wed Dec 26, 2007 8:16 pm

User avatar Hi Molly12,

What you are describing sounds very much like a breath holding spell. There are two types of breath holding spells, cyanotic and pallid. In the cyanotic type the child turns bluish. In the pallid type the child does not turn blue. In both types the child will "hold their breath" which is a bit of a misnomer because 1) it happens after exhaling not after taking a deep breath and 2) it is an involuntary action. The breath holding may last for up to one minute and may result in the child passing out.

These are not dangerous in that they resolve spontaneously and do not cause any damage to the brain (even if they pass out). Spells are often triggered by fear, crying, anxiety or pain.

They are unusual (but not impossible) before about six months of age, though. For this reason I would recommend you have your child see his doctor to be sure nothing else is going on. There is some evidence showing that iron deficiency anemia can trigger these spells so having him tested for anemia is a reasonable idea.

Best wishes.

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