Hyperventilation is a condition that usually features difficult and rapid breathing, sometimes combined with stress-induced panic. If hyperventilation is accompanied by pain or bleeding, or if it is happening for the first time, the sufferer should be taken to an emergency room. While waiting for emergency services, there are several kinds of treatment for hyperventilation. The patient may breath very slowly, taking just one breath every few seconds. Other kinds of treatment for hyperventilation include covering the mouth with a hand or paper bag to help increase CO2 in the blood.
When someone is experiencing hyperventilation, it is imperative that those around him or her do not panic. Panicking will likely only cause the patient more anxiety and worsen the attack. Soothing words, gently patting the patient on the back, and reassuring him or her that everything is going to be fine usually helps ease hyperventilation. Words should be spoken softly, in a calm voice. People shouldn’t gather around the patient because he or she must have plenty of space to breathe and relax.
Controlled, slow breathing is often an effective treatment for hyperventilation. The patient should deliberately draw in a breath, filling his or her lungs slowly and very deeply with air. The breath must then be held for at least five seconds and then let out very gradually. This technique should be repeated until hyperventilation ceases. The patient may then ease back into breathing normally.
Another treatment for hyperventilation involves placing one hand over the mouth and pressing either the right or left nostril with a thumb. The patient should breathe slowly, as above, for about one minute. The person may then block the other nostril. Balanced breathing is often calming because it forces the patient to draw in air more slowly. Some may be more comfortable simply cupping a hand over the mouth and leaving the nose free. Breaths should be taken slowly through the nose.
The paper bag method is a very popular treatment for hyperventilation. The opening to a small brown paper bag should be gently gathered in one of the patient’s fists, leaving the bag open enough to cover the patient’s mouth and nose. The patient should then alternate taking 12 slow breaths into the bag, and 12 without the bag. If the patient is unable to hold the bag, a friend or family member may do it. In these cases, the bag should be held very gently against the face so the patient doesn’t feel like he or she is suffocating.