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  • Post last modified:August 19, 2020
  • Post comments:1 Comment

toddler passing out when upset

Mom’s Question:

Anyone heard of a toddler passing out when upset..? Mine does!

My daughter (20-months) for the first time 6 days ago cried to the point where she started to faint. She was knocked over backwards and cried so hard she couldn’t expel her breath so she started to pass out.

I tried to stimulate her by yelling her name and gently shaking her but she was still going in and out. My husband then grabbed her and did the same. She was fine after a short while but I reacted so badly (I thought she was dying on me) that she was the one consoling me after.

I’m positive my reaction affected her because two days later she did it again. This time, however, she was getting dressed and getting upset (she insists on dressing herself because her older brother does) so I came in and told her we’re changing her diaper but she got upset and started crying and blacking out again.

I’ve read a few people’s comments on this which do make me feel better, however, are these two situations the same thing? She didn’t fall the second time and she’s definitely not doing it to get a response from me.

So did I cause her to do it again?

I probably sound crazy but I am still so worried it’ll happen again and she won’t breathe in/out after. We’ve been to the ER and they said it isn’t uncommon but to watch her over the next little while.

Baby Helpline:

Toddler Passing Out – Why & What to Do

Can Parent Reactions Trigger a Toddler Passing Out?

I can understand your reasoning;

She fell and passed out the first time and due to my reaction, I triggered something that made it come back 2 days later“.

I don’t think it is true, though. Toddlers of a certain age do get these kinds of breath-holding spells. They usually disappear before the child is 5 years old.

My guess is that they just started for the first time that day when she fell and then they came again two days later. No connection with how you behaved. (Who wouldn’t freak out in that situation!).

How To Act As A Parent to Prevent it


What you can do going forward is to try to distract your daughter before she gets so very upset. That way you can stop the spells from occurring (as often). This is, of course, easier said than done with an angry toddler, but experiment with distraction, confirming her feelings et cetera until you find a way that works for her.

Stay Calm

And then, of course, trying to stay calm and not become too angry yourself can also make a big difference.

Our youngest son didn’t pass out, but close. When he was 3 years old he had a few months with absolutely terrible tantrums that could go on for over 1 hour.

It took a long time before I learned how to help him calm down despite trying different strategies and I went all over the Internet, reading horror stories about all things that could be wrong with him since he had such bad tantrums.

Then the tantrums stopped. Just like that when he was 3.5 years. (Or well, after me attending a great parenting class, to be honest! :-D)

YOu can find some tips on how NOT to lose temper with your toddler here.

Acknowledge Her Feelings

Now he is the happiest kid on the block. In addition to simply getting through this development stage, I think one thing that helped him was when we finally learned to stay calm and just acknowledge his feelings, rather than trying to stop him, yell at him et cetera.

When we remained calm and loving, we signaled that he was OK, and everything would soon be fine. That helped him learn to calm down too.

An extremely helpful online parenting class that you can check out, is this one. It teaches the same kind of tools and techniques that I learned (in a course too) to deal with my little son’s tantrums. They also hold regular, free webinars, if you don’t want to spend any money.

Your daughter is so young, so she really has a long way before she can control her emotions at all. If you can stay calm, she will be helped.

What to do during a breath-holding spell

Another thing. It is very possible that your toddler will pass out again, no matter how good you get at distracting her, staying calm, validating her feelings, etc.

If your daughter does have a breath-holding spell, please remember that it is not dangerous for her.

You should stay calm and breathe slowly. Check that she has nothing in her mouth that could be a choking hazard.

When to Call the Doctor

I think you did the right thing to get your daughter to a doctor. Since the ER staff doesn’t seem worried, it is likely that they agree with the thought that her passing out are breath-holding spells.

If you are worried, take her back to be sure this is a probable diagnosis. Some 5% of all children between 8 and 48 months get them. (Source)

Also, several studies have found a link between iron deficiency and breath-holding spells, so do have a doctor test your toddler for that.

I’ll include links to similar questions below. I hope all this will provide you with some help.

Warm wishes,

(Answer approved by our Medical Reference Team)

Find answers and comments below.


May 08, 2019My son does the same thingby: proud mommy of 2

I have an 18 month old son that has been doing the same thing since he was about 9 or 10 months old and when he first did it i thought my baby was gone. It started one night after i had given him his bath and he was fussing wanting to be held but i was putting lotion on him at the time so im telling him to hold on and i guess he didnt want to hear that so he cried so hard that he cringed up and was turning blue then he went limp on me and im yelling his name and blowing in his face so that he would breathe but i was scared out of my mind i took him to the hospital because at the time i didnt know what caused it and they told me that he had a breath holding spell. He still does it when he gets upset but I know how to handle it.

Oct 26, 2019Easy solution to this problem
by: cocobg94709
Your child needs iron supplements and it will stop the breath holding spells almost immediately! You can look it up online!
My 21 months old son who has cancer and undergoes chemotherapy had 3 episodes in one day last week, had never had that problem before, ever! But because of the chemo, he was anemic. In his case, he needed a blood transfusion, but for a normal child iron supplement is the answer.
I hope this helps.

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  1. Jaimee

    Hi, I am from Madison WI and my now 13 year old son was diagnosed with what is called ‘Blue Breatholding Syndrome’.

    I took him to see a neurologist after a few incidents he had where when he got very upset that he passed out. The first time this happened he was about 8 months old and he was standing, holding onto a chair and he fell backward and hit his head (on carpet)and he started to cry real hard, got real stiff, turned blue and passed out.

    I panicked, tried to call 911 but I had been on the computer so the phone line was tied up. I ran to the neighbors but they were not home…the whole time I was carrying my baby who I thought was dying (there is no worse feeling).

    I splashed cold water on his face, shook him, slapped his face, yelled his name, etc and then put him on the floor and tried cpr…at that time he started to come to (on his own I believe, not because of the cpr).

    This happened a few more times before I decided I needed to find out what was wrong. My dr sent us to a neurologist who diagnosed him with BBS. Much to my relief I was told no baby or child had ever died from this and that he would eventually outgrow it by age 4 or 5.

    Also, they believe it may be genetic and my ex-mother-in-law claims that my son’s father had episodes like that when he was a baby although back then they didn’t have a name for it.

    I don’t know if this is true for your child but my son would literally be exhausted after an episode and would sleep for a couple hours afterward. Even though I continued to freak out when he passed out and still splashed his face with water and called his name and kinda shook him I learned to just kinda let it run it’s course and let him pass out, come to and take a nap after.

    Good news, he did outgrow it by age 3 or 4 and is now still fascinated when I tell him the stories of how he scared the crap out of me on a weekly basis for several years!