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Author: Christine Au
Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific
In the world of emergency medicine, it is prudent to be trained and adept at handling the worse case scenario. Breath holding spells are a pediatric phenomenon that affects 5% of children from six months to four years where an involuntary pause in breathing occurs. This may lead to a patient becoming unconscious; however, these routine episodes are far from life-threatening. Breath holding spells can be a result of various situations, such as a frightening or painful event, or can be linked to excessive anger in a child. Goldman defined this as a “benign paroxysmal non-epileptic disorder occurring in healthy children 6 to 48 months of age”. There are two main types of spells: cyanotic and pallid. Cyanotic is much more common compared to the pallid type. These spells are a result of a decrease in heart rate, low oxygen, and high carbon dioxide in the system that may precipitate a loss of consciousness.