Hyperventilation is the act of breathing rapidly. This can sometimes be normal (as in exercise) or sometimes a mechanism employed by the body to counter any underlying disease condition (such as metabolic acidosis).
However if this is done deliberately, it can have harmful affects and is thus adviced not to be done by a normal individual uselessly. It can lead to unconsciousness too.
What are the affects of hyperventilation
Hyperventilation or breathing rapidly can cause light headedness or dizziness along with tingling in fingers or even loss of consciousness. So avoid it please. If you’ve a patient who you think is doing it deliberately, tell them how it can damage their brain and these symptoms, so that they stop doing it just to get attention or achieve any goals they’re trying to achieve by malingering. Don’t scold them though, they’re still your patients, psychiatric if not pulmonoly related.
Why hyperventiation causes light headedness
Hyperventilation results in reduced carbon di oxide in the blood. However the oxygen quantity remains almost same.
Reduction in carbon di oxide causes respiratory alkalosis.
The brain requires a perfect balance of a lot of nutrients to function normally.
So an abnormal reduction of the carbon dioxide in the blood vessels taking blood to the brain causes those vessels to constrict. Resulting in lesser blood supply to the brain.
Remember that hyperventilation does not result in increase of oxygen concentration. So the constriction (or narrowing) of blood vessels taking blood to the brain results in reduced oxygen supply to the brain.
This results in all the classic symptoms of hyperventilation.
What is hypocapnia?
Hypocapnea is made of two words:
- Hypo: low
- Capnia: carbon di oxide (origin: smoke)
So hypocapnia refers to a condition in which the blood carbondioxide level is below normal
How much hyperventilation is safe?
None. If you’re perfectly normal and hyperventilating deliberately, it’s not at all recommended.
Can hyperventilating lead to brain damage?
Our brain shuts down and takes us into unconsciousness, obviously it does it for a reason. Probably some damage is already done by that time, or to prevent the immature part of the brain trying to damage itself too.
How to stop hyperventilating
Ask the person to breath in from the nose and exhale from the nose too.
You can also stop hyperventilating by reducing the anxiety of the person if they’re anxious. However anxiety is also a symptom of hyperventilating, so don’t focus too much on it if it’s not the initial cause for it.
First aid / treatment for hyperventilation
Minimal hyperventilation affects can revent in some time after stopping hyperventilation.
However if the episode of deliberate / intentional deep or rapid breathing was long, then the person can be helped by making him take breaths in a bag. So that the patient re-inhales the same air they are expiring. This will result in restoring the carbon dioxide levels in their bloods faster.
However make sure that this is also not over-done. And stopped as soon as the person feels normal. At least not continue when they feel the discomfort due to re-inhaling carbon dioxide.