Breath-holding attacks are not uncommon in infants and toddlers. They are characterised by the child suddenly stopping breathing in the midst of a bout of crying evoked by pain, some emotional upset, or loss of temper. The breath may be held so long that the child goes blue in the face. The attack is never fatal and the condition disappears spontaneously after the age of 3–5 years, but once a child has acquired the habit it may recur quite often.
It is important for a paediatrician to determine that such events are not epileptic (see EPILEPSY). Generally they require no treatment other than reassurance, as recovery is spontaneous and rapid – although a small number of severely aﬀected children have been helped by a PACEMAKER. Parents should avoid dramatising the attacks.