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Using a Paper Bag to Control Hyperventilation

Using a paper bag to control hyperventilation

Try these steps to control hyperventilation

  • Take 6 to 12 easy, natural breaths, with a small paper bag held over your mouth and nose. Then remove the bag from your nose and mouth and take easy, natural breaths.
  • Next, try belly-breathing (diaphragmatic breathing).
  • Alternate these techniques until your hyperventilation stops.

If hyperventilation continues for longer than 30 minutes, call your doctor immediately.

Do not use a paper bag if:

  • You have any heart or lung problems, such as coronary artery disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, emphysema), or a history of deep vein thrombosis, stroke, or pulmonary embolism.
  • Rapid breathing occurs at a high altitude [above 2000 m (6000 ft)]. Breathing faster than normal is a natural response to an increased altitude.

Follow these precautions when using the bag method:

  • Do not use a plastic bag.
  • Do not breathe continuously into a paper bag. Take 6 to 12 natural breaths, with a paper bag held over your mouth and nose, then remove the bag from your nose and mouth.
  • Do not hold the bag for the person who is hyperventilating. Allow the person to hold the bag over his or her own mouth and nose.

Current as of: June 26, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
David Messenger MD - Emergency Medicine, Critical Care Medicine

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