Unlike most airway and breathing problems, hyperventilation is where someone is taking in too much air. One of the most common causes of hyperventilation is a panic attack.
The symptoms of the hyperventilation often make the casualty panic more, which creates a cycle. If the cycle is not broken and the casualty carries on over breathing, they will faint (this will return the breathing to normal). Panic attacks are likely to be very distressing for the casualty and the onset may be very quick.
Possible Signs, Symptoms and Clues:
- Overwhelming panic and anxiety
- Excessive gasping breathing
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Chest pains, or feeling that the heart is beating irregularly (this may lead to the casualty thinking they are having a heart attack)
- Shivering or trembling
- Sweating or hot flushes
- Pins and needles
- ‘Out of body’ feeling
Encourage the casualty to relax. Stay calm yourself. Try to explain what you think is happening. Try to get the casualty to focus on their breathing, for example by taking continuous small sips of water, or breathing plan such as:
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing
- Breathe in as slowly, deeply and gently as you can, through your nose
- Breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth
- Some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five on each in-breath and each out-breath