When our carbon dioxide level is low, blood vessels nourishing the brain can narrow. This leads to tingling in the fingers and lightheadedness. People begin breathing quickly, or hyperventilating, to regain a balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Some people rarely or never hyperventilate, while others do so frequently. The condition is typically triggered by an emotional state, such as rage or depression, but more commonly by panic, stress, nervousness, and anxiety.
If You Hyperventilate
The antidote for hyperventilation is to increase your carbon dioxide level and reduce breaths per minute. It may help to breathe through pursed lips, breathe deeply into the belly, cupped hands, a paper bag, or try alternate nostril breathing.
Alternative nostril breathing is a centuries-old method of calming the body and not at all difficult to learn.
- Keep your mouth closed
Close the right nostril, breath in through the left nostril
- Close the left nostril, breath out through the right
Keep the left nostril closed and breath in through the right
- Close the right and breath out with the left
Keep the right closed, breath in through the left
- repeat 2 and 3.
See A Doctor
It is important to see a physician the first time you hyperventilate and any time pain, bleeding, or fever is involved. If you have seen a doctor but your hyperventilation worsens, it is time for another checkup.
Hyperventilation needs a doctor’s attention because there may be physical instead of emotional causes for the problem. Other known triggers of hyperventilation are:
- taking stimulants
- intense pain
- drug overdose
- heart attack
- lung infection
- COPD, asthma, or other lung disease
Recommendations for Hyperventilation
- If the hyperventilation is an anxiety issue, see a psychologist or therapist to figure out what triggers your hyperventilation, and learn stress reduction techniques.
- Acupuncture, which stimulates blood circulation, has helped some people who frequently hyperventilate.
- If needles bother you, look into emotional freedom technique (EFT). It can help reduce anxiety and stress by tapping with the fingers rather than poking with needles.
- Take an ounce of prevention by practicing meditation, yoga, Tai chi, qi gong, or doing aerobic exercise.
- Avoid or reduce caffeine, sugar, and processed food intake.
Sources: MayoClinic.com, Healthline.com