Is it normal for a toddler to hold her breath until she passes out? Is this behavioral or organic, and how should a parent respond? We asked Le Bonheur pediatrician Noel "Kip" Frizzell, MD.
Here's what he had to say:
"Breath-holding spells are quite common in childhood, peaking at around 2 years of age. They are usually provoked by the toddler's anger at being scolded or surprised, but they are occasionally brought on by painful events such as being hit on the head. The child may hold her breath until she loses consciousness, which is sometimes followed by jerking movements that mimic a seizure.
These episodes are predictable in onset but are certainly frightening the first time they happen. Once the child loses consciousness, they begin breathing spontaneously after a few seconds. After she regains consciousness, you should place her in a safe environment and ignore any further tantrum. If your child gets attention for these episodes, such as cuddling or playing with her afterward, they will often become more frequent. It can be difficult to remain calm after this happens, but doing so will reassure your child that she is safe and secure. See your pediatrician if these episodes are frequent."