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Home :: Hyperventilation Syndrome

Hyperventilation Syndrome

Breathing so fast that carbon dioxide levels in the blood are decreased, temporarily upsetting normal blood chemistry. This may occur in athletes during or following vigorous physical activity.

The normal pattern of breathing often changes from abdominal breathing to upper chest breathing, often through the mouth, leading to musculo-skeletal changes of upper chest and neck muscles which in turn causes pain, tension and headaches.

Described as a diagnosis begging for recognition, HVS is increasingly recognized as a significant cause of ill-health, although remains widely under-diagnosed.


A change in the normal ratio of acid to other elements in the blood caused by breathing out too much carbon dioxide. Hyperventilation can accompany fever, disease of the heart and lungs, or severe injury if disease or injury is not present, hyperventilation is caused by anxiety. The following factors make it more likely to occur:

  • Stress such as that associated with competition.
  • Feeling of guilt.
  • Fatigue or overwork.
  • Illness such as those listed above.
  • Smoking.
  • Excess alcohol consumption.

Signs and symptoms

  • Feeling of severe air hunger.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Numbness and tingling around the mouth, hands and feet.
  • Weakness or faintness.
  • Muscle spasm or contractions in the hands and feet.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Palpitations.
  • Fatigue.
  • Frequent sighing.
  • Fainting (occasionally).


  • A provocation test - voluntary over breathing for 2-3 minutes - provokes similar symptoms; rebreathing from a large paper bag relieves them.
  • Blood gases


Medical Treatment

  • Doctor's treatment, if the cause is organic or symptoms are prolonged.
  • Psychotherapy, biofeedback training or counseling, if hyperventilation occurs often and is caused by anxiety.

Home Treatment- During an attack, the following instructions will increase carbon dioxide in the blood and relieve symptoms:

  • Cover your mouth and nose completely with a paper bag.
  • Breathe slowly into the bag and rebreathe the air. The air in the bag contains additional carbon dioxide.
  • Breathe slowly in and out of the bag at least 10 times.
  • Put the bag aside and breathe normally a few minutes.
  • Repeat the process until the symptoms diminish or disappear.
  • If symptoms return, repeat the process as often as needed.

Avoid anxiety-producing situations.

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