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 6000 ft (1829 m)]. 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.
By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
David Messenger, MD
Last Revised August 29, 2012

Last Revised: August 29, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD

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