Print this page


Written by 



Hyperventilation or over breathing is the state of breathing faster or deeper than normal. This causes excessive explosion of carbon dioxide, leaving low levels in the blood, and can be associated with a psychological state such as a panic attack or a physiological state such as metabolic acidosis (a condition whereby the body is producing too much acid or the kidneys are not getting rid of enough perhaps due to renal failure).


Excessive or fast breathing is commonly described as (Hyperventilation). It is usually the result of acute anxiety and can lead to the patient having a panic attack.


Hyperventilation can easily be mistaken for Asthma but: this can be identified because a patient having an asthma attack generates a wheeze in their breathing pattern, whereas in the Hyperventilating patient breathing can be heard entering and exiting the lungs normally


Signs & Symptoms:

  • Patient will look anxious and be struggling to breath.
  • Speech will be difficult.
  • Dizziness or faintness.
  • Palpitations.
  • Feeling of choking or suffocation.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling or marked tingling /pins and needles in the hands.
  • Cramps in the hands & feet.
  • Patient fearful of dying during an attack.



HYPERVENTILATION IS NOT A RESPIRATORY DISEASE BUT AN EMOTIONAL CONDITION. Therefore staying calm is the most important method to help control the symptoms. The aims of the treatment are to increase CO2 (Carbon dioxide) levels in the lungs and increase O2 (oxygen) levels to vital organs




  • Be firm but reassuring.
  • Lead the patient to a quiete place.
  • Explain to the patient what is happening.
  • Ask patient to hold their breath, this will reduce the respiratory rate.
  • Encourage slow deep breathing.
  • Breathing through their nose will help reduce the loss of carbon dioxide.
  • The patient could take sips of water to help reduce the numbers of breaths taken.



  • Care must be taken not to mistake Asthma with Hyperventilation.



We hope you find this article useful. This is one in an alphabetical series of articles addressing various symptoms and their first aid treatments. If you would like more information on related resuscitation and first aid training, please get in touch.


You might also be interested in our blog. One of our most recent articles explores if you should call an ambulance.


You can also sign-up to our newsletter  on the homepage.



First Response. Training for life. Training to save a life.

Read 22382 times Last modified on Wednesday, 29 January 2014
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Clive Haddrell Cert Ed LIQA MSET

NHS Paramedic Tutor, NHS Ambulance Emergency Driving Tutor, FAETC 1&2, Cert/Ed, D32, D33, LIQA. Manual Handling Tutor (RoSPA) and Member of the Society for Education and Training. I have over thirty years experience with the former Avon Ambulance Service NHS Trust, and recently with Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust. My experience includes the role of paramedic tutor, rapid response motorcycle paramedic. For the last 25years paramedic advisor to the well-known BBC television program "Casualty".

Latest from Clive Haddrell Cert Ed LIQA MSET

Related items