In hyperventilation (hi-per-ven-tuh-LAY-shun), your breathing is so rapid that it upsets the balance of gases in your blood. One of these gases is carbon dioxide. Hyperventilation reduces the carbon dioxide level in the blood, causing symptoms that resemble a heart attack.



Hyperventilation is usually brought on by anxiety, stress, or hysteria.


Common symptoms are shortness of breath; fast breathing; chest pain; weakness; dizziness; and numbness and tingling around the mouth, hands, and feet. You may have blurred vision, feel like your heart is racing, have muscle tightness in your hands and feet, or feel faint.


Since it is hard to avoid stress, try to control it. Learn new ways to relax (deep breathing, relaxing muscles, meditation, or biofeedback). Talk to someone about things that upset you.


  • During an attack, try to slow your breathing. Take 1 breath every 10 seconds.
  • Do not breathe into a paper bag. This can be dangerous because you may not get enough oxygen.
  • You may need help to deal with the stress or anxiety that may be causing you to hyperventilate. Family, friends, clergy, your doctor, or a mental health center may be able to help.

Call Your Doctor If...

  • Your symptoms do not go away.
  • You have a sudden fever.

Seek Care Immediately If...

  • You have a seizure.
You have fainting spells or chest pain.

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