Other conditions with symptoms similar to breath-holding spells

Breath-holding spells are brief periods when a young child stops breathing for up to 1 minute. These spells are not serious; they do not cause permanent damage or affect a child's future health.

However, symptoms similar to breath-holding spells may sometimes be related to a more serious condition, such as:

  • A seizure disorder such as epilepsy.
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), which can occur without the presence of a seizure.
  • Rare problems with the brain stem, such as a tumor or Arnold-Chiari malformation.

Usually, a doctor can easily tell the difference between a breath-holding spell and one of these conditions when all of the details of the event are described clearly. If you have any concerns about your child's spells, talk with your doctor.

Last Updated: May 5, 2008

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