Panic Attacks in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

During a panic attack, your child may have a feeling of intense fear or terror, trouble breathing, chest pain or tightness, heartbeat changes, dizziness, sweating, and shaking. A panic attack starts suddenly and usually lasts from 5 to 20 minutes but may last even longer. A person has the most anxiety about 10 minutes after the attack starts. An attack can begin with a stressful event, or it can happen without a cause.

Although panic attacks can cause scary symptoms, you can learn to help your child manage them with self-care, counselling, and medicine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • Make sure your child goes to all counselling sessions and follow-up appointments.
  • Help your child recognize and accept his or her anxiety. Your child needs to learn that when faced with a situation that causes anxiety, he or she can say, "This is not an emergency. I feel uncomfortable, but I am not in danger. I can keep going even if I feel anxious."
  • Help your child learn to be kind to his or her body. Teach your child to:
    • Relieve tension with exercise or a massage.
    • Get enough rest.
    • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and illegal drugs. They can increase your child's anxiety level, cause sleep problems, or trigger a panic attack.
    • Learn and do relaxation techniques.
  • Help your child learn to engage his or her mind. Have your child get out and do something fun. Go to a funny movie, or take a walk or hike. Having too much or too little to do can make your child anxious.
  • Keep a record of your child's symptoms. Encourage your child to discuss his or her fears with a good friend or family member. Teens may be able to join a support group for teenagers with similar problems. Talking to others sometimes relieves stress.
  • Encourage your child to be active for at least an hour each day. Your child may like to take a walk with you, ride a bike, or play sports.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child cannot stop from hurting himself or herself.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child mentions suicide. If a suicide threat seems real, with a specific plan and a way to carry it out, stay with your child, or ask someone you trust to stay, until you get help.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child has symptoms of anxiety that are new or different.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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