“What spell?” You may ask. Sounds like a script from “Charmed” TV show. I admit I never heard of the term “breath-holding” until it happened to my toddler son last weekend.
There are many things that we DON’T know until it happens to us or someone close to us. Here’s one such case.
My son (slightly more than a year old) was having fever over the weekend. He was very temperamental. If you got into his way, you’d get it. He would cry his lungs out and even our neighbors ten doors away could hear.
However, this was the worst of all: He was playing with the TV remote while my daughter was watching. To prevent further disturbances, my wife took the remote away from him. That was it. That was all needed to trigger for his tantrum.
He cried very loudly until he lost his voice. Suddenly, my wife noticed that his face turned blue, followed by his lips. In no time, our son lost his consciousness and slept on my wife’s shoulder.
I was there and I observed the whole episode. We were panic like hell and it was so fast that we couldn’t do anything, if we ever knew what to do. I was relieved as I realized that his face was back to normal (pinkish) after 2-3 seconds duration. Then he went to sleep.
Was it frightening to uneducated parents like us? You bet.
Since this was the first time my wife and I saw this, we started an intellectual discussion about what had just happened. But that led to nowhere as we were clueless about this pass out incident. We were speculating could it be our son was too tired as he didn’t sleep well the night before, or could it be something else that we didn’t know.
To leave no stone unturned, my wife quickly called our pediatrician cousin to relate the matter to him.
After describing the incident, our cousin concluded that the incident was called “breath holding attack.” Fit or convulsion was excluded even though some of the descriptions fit into a fit.
Side note: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia’s definition of a breath holding spell is "A breath holding spell is an involuntary holding of the breath accompanied by loss of consciousness in response to a confrontational situation."
Some advised us to seek the help of a pediatrician for a face-to-face examination. Then so we did. We brought our son to a nearby clinic. Again, after listening to our description, the pediatrician said very confidently that the case is again classified as breath-holding attack.
The reconfirmation made us 50 bucks poorer. But at least my wife and I can sleep more soundly now as the pediatrician reassured us that there’s no cause for alarm and if it happens again, what we can do is to calm the child. Or prevent our son from getting upset or angry.
Oh boy, if you don’t know what breath-holding spell is and it happens to your child, I can bet that it will scare the hell out of you. When you child’s face turns blue, so does yours. That was what happened to us.
Thank god breath holding will disappear when a child enters age five. And it’s advisable to see a doctor if the spell happens for the first time to make sure it’s not convulsions. If it’s indeed a breath holding spell, check for anemia or iron deficiency.
Now that you know what the heck breath holding spells are, at least you know there’s no danger in the attack. So there should be no reason to panic anyway.