Have you ever fainted? I bet you may have not realized how common fainting is in the pediatric age group? I know this from my own children (yes, I had 2 “fainters” and boys no less) as well as from many of my patients.
The medical term for fainting is syncope, and it really is common among children. It starts during the toddler years with breath-holding spells. Many in this age group (up to 50%) will hold their breath when they are hurt or angry.
When a child holds their breath while crying (you can just see it happening in front of you) they will often turn a bit blue and “pass out”. This is a type of fainting. This can be very scary for parents who have never seen their precious child have such an attitude and then hold their breath over not getting the cookie? Yes, this is a normal part of being a toddler! They are very emotional and labile at this age (foreshadowing for teen years?) and most toddlers don’t have a lot of language yet, so when they get mad or frustrated they just SCREAM! But, while screaming, the child forgets to take a breath, and then the brain and autonomic nervous system takes over and the breath holding leads to fainting.
The breath holding spell, as scary as it is, is just a form of fainting. It will not hurt your child, but it may take your breath away!
My advice? Try not to pay attention to your child if they begin having breath-holding spells. It may be hard to “ignore” the first two or three, but these “spells” usually last for months (maybe years) and you do not need to rush to your child when they hold their breath. By calling attention to the event you may inadvertently reinforce the behavior. As a child gets older, the breath holding will stop (but not the tantrums?) and there will be new behaviors to conquer. Do you have a breath-holder? How do you cope? Let us know!
That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow.