What is hyperventilation?

Hyperventilation is a condition that occurs when you begin to breathe very quickly. There are a number of things that can cause a person to hyperventilate. It occurs as a result of an imbalance in the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide entering and exiting your body. With hyperventilation, there is a decrease in carbon dioxide which is caused by exhaling more than inhaling. There are millions of people in the United States who experience hyperventilation every day.


When a person has low levels of carbon dioxide, it can cause the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain to become narrow. When the blood vessels become narrow, the blood supply is decreased. This can lead to feeling symptoms such as lightheadedness or tingling in the fingers. When a person experiences severe hyperventilation, they can completely lose consciousness.

Symptoms of hyperventilation include shortness of breath, anxiety and nervousness, feeling like you might die, bloating or burping, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, muscle spasms, dry mouth, numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, and around the mouth, sleep problems, confusion, dizziness, and fainting.

The most common causes of a hyperventilation are anxiety, panic, nervousness, or stress. Hyperventilation often feels like you are having a panic attack. Other things that can cause a person to hyperventilate include bleeding, using stimulants, overdosing on certain medications, experiencing severe pain, pregnancy, having a lung infection, lung diseases, such as asthma or COPD, or conditions of the heart, such as having a heart attack.

Tips to prevent hyperventilation:

·         Breathe through your nose. It is harder to hyperventilate when your mouth is closed.

·         Get a good amount of sleep (i.e. at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night). This can help reduce anxiety.

·         Eat a healthy diet. Limit the amount of caffeine you get by drinking less coffee, tea, and soda, and chocolate.

·         Loosening your clothing will help you breathe easier.

·         Get regular exercise. Regular aerobic exercise forces you to take full breaths and helps you to reduce anxiety that contributes to hyperventilation.

·         Seek help to learn how to think positively and stop negative thoughts.

·         Learn to breathe from your diaphragm.

·         Learn different relaxation techniques and see what works best for you.

·         Learn ways to relieve anxiety. Talk to friends, family members, or a counselor can help too.