Monday, September 08, 2008

See, You Can Learn Something Here.

So I was doing research online about "breath holding spells" because my daycare people are insistent that Patrick is having seizures - I wanted to have something in print to give them until we get our EEG results and can PROVE it. So anyway - I noticed people were finding my site by doing searches on "fainting spells in infants" and well, having been there myself I thought I would do them a service and post what I found.

From WebMD:

What are breath-holding spells?

Breath-holding spells are brief periods when young children stop breathing for up to 1 minute. These spells often cause a child to pass out (lose consciousness). Breath-holding spells usually occur when a young child is angry, frustrated, in pain, or afraid. However, the spell is a reflex, not a deliberate behavior on the child's part.

Breath-holding spells are categorized as either cyanotic or pallid.

  • Cyanotic breath-holding spells, the most common type, usually occur in response to anger or frustration. A child's skin typically turns red or blue-purple.
  • Pallid breath-holding spells produce a pale appearance to a child's skin. These spells usually occur in response to fear, pain, or injury, especially after an unexpected blow to the head.

Some children have both cyanotic and pallid spells at one time or another in their lives.

Breath-holding spells are most common in children between 6 months and 4 years of age. Their frequency varies; some children have a spell once a year, while others have spells several times a day.

Breath-holding spells are usually not serious, do not cause permanent damage or affect a child's future health, and gradually go away on their own.

What causes breath-holding spells?

Breath-holding spells are usually caused by either a change in the usual breathing pattern or a slowing of the heart rate. These reactions may be brought on by pain or by strong emotions, such as fear or frustration.

In some children, breath-holding spells may be related to iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which the body does not produce a normal number of red blood cells.

What are the symptoms?

In general, breath-holding spells cause a child to faint and may sometimes cause the muscles to twitch or the body to stiffen.

Specific symptoms of cyanotic spells include:

  • A short burst of rigorous crying lasting less than 30 seconds.
  • Hyperventilating (overbreathing).
  • A pause in breathing after exhaling.
  • Red or blue-purple skin color, especially around the lips.

Specific symptoms of pallid spells include:

  • A single cry or no cry at all.
  • Slowing of the heart.
  • Pale skin color.
  • Sweating.
  • Sleepiness or fatigue after the episode.

Some children also have seizures during breath-holding spells, which does not mean they have a seizure disorder. Seizures are different from mild twitching. They are more likely to occur in children who have long periods of breath-holding.

How are breath-holding spells diagnosed?

Breath-holding spells usually are diagnosed by a report of the symptoms observed during a spell. The health professional will examine your child and ask you to describe the spells. Recording the symptoms will help you describe them more accurately.

If your doctor thinks your child has a seizure disorder or another condition, such as iron deficiency anemia, certain tests may be done.

How are they treated?

There is no medical treatment for breath-holding spells, unless a health professional determines that a health problem, such as a heart irregularity, is the cause.

Help protect your child from injury during a spell by laying him or her on the floor and keeping the arms, legs, and head from hitting anything hard or sharp.

You can help decrease the chance of breath-holding spells by making sure your child gets plenty of rest, helping him or her feel secure, and helping minimize and manage his or her frustration.

Some additional information from other sites that adds to this:

Because breath-holding spells do share several features in common with seizure disorders, the two are often confused. In epileptic seizures, a child may turn blue, but it will be during or after the seizure, not before. Rarely, other medical conditions may look like breath-holding spells and a visit to the doctor’s will help clarify the situation.

They occur only while the child is awake.

During a breath-holding spell:

  • Your child may make 1 or 2 cries and then hold his breath until he becomes blue around the lips and passes out.
  • Your child may stiffen and may have a few twitches or muscle jerks.
  • Your child will breathe normally again and become fully alert in less than 1 minute.
Breath-holding spells are not dangerous, and they don't lead to epilepsy or brain damage.

The majority of children will regain consciousness and be fine within a minute or two, but some will fall asleep for an hour or so.

The most important treatment is reassurance to the family, because witnessing a breath-holding spell is a frightening experience for observers. There is generally no treatment available or needed for breath holding spells, as the child will eventually outgrow them.