Breathing Spasms After Crying (Possible Causes & Solution)

Breathing Spasms After Crying (Possible Causes & Solution)

Breathing spasm after crying is a reflex action that occurs due to a spasm of your diaphragm. It is common with children, and when a child holds their breath, usually it’s because they’re upset, irritated, frightened, or in discomfort, and they express that by crying.

breathing spasms after crying

Mothers would refer to these occurrences as “prolonged hiccups,” “sobbing spasms,” and “stutter breath.”

Babies and young children are frequently pictured “gasping,” straining to catch their breath, uneasy, and appearing on the verge of panic.

An infant may behave this way for various reasons, including typical behavior. Sometimes the child may faint as a result of holding their air.

We also have articles on:

Breathing Spasms after crying in Babies

Breathing spasms are more frequently a symptom of an underdeveloped neurological system, which is typically found in infants. These could linger for about an hour, but they should go away on their own.

Breath-holding spells, laryngomalacia, and gastric reflux are other causes of irregular breathing after crying.

To rule out any significant causes, it is usually better to visit your pediatrician.

When your child begins to breathe abnormally after a period of crying, as a parent, you will be concerned and afflicted.

Your baby’s crying, especially if it is intense, can easily disrupt their regular breathing rhythm. As the crying episode finishes, the diaphragm, the muscle that controls breathing, works to get the child’s breathing back to normal.

The child may experience oxygen deprivation due to crying, which can also cause their breathing to fluctuate significantly between sobs. Their tiny bodies start to freak out a little bit at this time.

Therefore, until your baby’s breathing is balanced, their body overcompensates by taking additional irregular breaths.

Why do we cry?

We must remember that we let go of pent-up feelings when we cry. These feelings could range from joy to sorrow, anger to fear, and everything in between.

Whether a baby, child, or adult, crying helps us release the emotion holding us back.

The only difference is that your baby can’t explain why they’re upset, so you’ll have to use your parental instinct to determine what’s wrong.

They can be terrified of the dark, don’t like to be left alone, are startled, or have a host of other fears.

Using a baby monitor with a two-way intercom and installing a night light in your baby’s room will stop many of these causes.

What are the Causes of Breathing Spasms After Crying

Let’s investigate this worrying circumstance in depth to see what might be causing your youngster to experience these breathing spasms. Breathing spasms can be caused by;

1. Developing the nervous system

Consider the last time you sobbed uncontrollably and hysterically that you had to stop and collect your breath after releasing all of your emotions. Infants experience it in the same way.

They probably haven’t been crying as long as you have, but it takes a lot of energy to cry, and when they try to breathe normally again, they have some difficulty.

Adults and older children may quickly change their breathing, while newborns and infants need a little more time to return to their regular breathing patterns.

Even after birth, their neurological system is still developing and undeveloped.

They appear to have problems breathing or breathing in spasms after crying. Some infants need to breathe in this manner for 30 to 60 minutes, while others can do so for several hours.

2. Breath-holding spells

Children as young as 6 months to 2 years old may experience breath-holding spells. These are lengthy crying caused by either discomfort or strong feelings.

When babies cry too much, they have less time to breathe, and eventually, they run out of air and pass out.

Due to the highly minimal likelihood of any long-term impacts, this is very quick and not hazardous. All children, whether newborns or not, are unaware of this and cannot control themselves.

Thus it is vital to note that breath-holding spells are not deliberate.

The two primary categories of breath-holding spells are; Infants exhibit bluish-looking faces, which is a more frequent case, and infants show pale-looking faces in the second case.

The first category is Cyanotic spells;

In this case, Infants that experience this kind of breath-holding episode may suddenly cease breathing as they exhale, become blue (cyanosis), become limp or rigid, and then briefly lose consciousness.

Short, loud cries are more frequently the source of cyanotic breath-holding spells, which typically last less than a minute.

The second category is Pallid spells;

Common triggers for this kind of breath-holding spell are fear and pain. Compared to the cyanotic type, cries are not as loud.

The child occasionally gasps uncontrollably, briefly loses consciousness, and then rapidly regains it.

Some infants may jerk or arch their backs during either breath-holding period if unconscious for at least 45 seconds.

It may be wise to make an appointment with a doctor if you think your child has had a breath-holding spell so they can rule out other graver diseases.

Anemia from an iron shortage may play a role in some breath-holding episodes.

According to studies, administering iron supplements (at the proper dosage) may reduce the frequency of breath-holding spells. If you think your child needs an iron supplement, ask your doctor.

How to prevent breathing spells after crying in children

Your infant will typically grow out of this phase as their bodies age and as they gain more effective coping mechanisms.

As we’ve already stated, the key to assisting you in preventing additional episodes will be genuinely figuring out what produces the upset.

Consult your pediatrician if you have any worries about how they breathe. They will be able to reassure you that what you see is completely normal.

Your doctor can discuss strategies with you for attempting to reduce your child’s spells. You can try to stop your child from becoming upset if they frequently hold their breath after crying.

You can, for instance:

  1. Make sure your toddler doesn’t become overly hungry or weary.
  2. Try to enforce discipline calmly.

It might be challenging to watch your child go through a phase, but try not to cave into unreasonable demands or temper tantrums to stop one.

If you need assistance deciding how to discipline your child, speak with your doctor.

Remind yourself that your child will outgrow the breath-holding spells and that they are not harmful.

Speaking with a mental health professional can help if you’re highly concerned about the spells.

What Should I Do if My Child Has a Breath-Holding Spell?

my baby is breathing spasms after crying

Get medical attention if this is your child’s first breath-holding episode. Even though the spells are harmless, examining your youngster is a good idea.

If your child experiences breath-holding spells, you should do the following;

1. Place your youngster on the floor or in a cot.

2. Keep anything sharp or hard away from your child.

3. Keep your child close by.

If your child collapses, do the following;

1. Maintaining your composure will help you believe your child is secure.

2. Make sure there is no food or other object in your child’s mouth that could suffocate them.

3. If your child goes blue or stops breathing for more than a minute, seek medical help.

After the breath-holding spell, Tell your youngster that everything is fine and that they are not to blame for the spell.

3. Infant reflux and gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD)

Food is prevented from exiting the stomach, returning through the esophagus, and exiting the mouth (as vomit) by a band of muscle that is located between the esophagus and the stomach.

The lower esophageal sphincter is what it is known as (LES). The LES might not be fully formed in babies.

All infants have at least occasionally experienced reflux. Most cases appear between the ages of 4 and 6 months and go away on their own without any medical intervention.

“Silent reflux” is the term for this.

However, there are some circumstances where reflux may not be typical. The following symptoms could point to gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD):

1. vomiting or spit-up that is forced and results in crying and anger

2. refusing to eat

3. back arches.

4. coughing or choking frequently.

Certain movements can sometimes help ease reflux. These include placing the infant upright after feeding, incorporating cereal into feeds, and adjusting the angle of the bassinet or crib for the baby.

However, some infants experience severe symptoms and might require certain drugs. Your doctor may make a more precise diagnosis and issue any necessary prescriptions.

Breathing Spasms after crying in Adults

breathing spasms in adult

Crying, panic attacks, or other emotional stress frequently cause hyperventilation as a side effect.

Breathing spasms after crying can be an unsettling and scary side effect for many people, even though it is typically safe if it happens infrequently.

Causes of Breathing Spasms in Adults

The normal breathing process of the lungs and diaphragm is disturbed by crying. The diaphragm controls breathing in and out, assisting the lungs in keeping the blood sufficiently oxygenated and carbon dioxide-free.

The diaphragm can frequently become out of sync while crying, causing blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels to fluctuate.

The resultant attempts of the diaphragm to control these levels lead to an irregular breathing cadence, which frequently seems like double breathing or inhaling twice.


Bronchospasm can also be related to breath-holding spasms. The muscles that line your bronchi (the lungs’ airways) can contract, causing bronchospasms.

Wheezing, coughing, and other symptoms are brought on as a result.

Bronchospasm can be brought on by various conditions, including asthma, and is typically treated with bronchodilators.

What sensation does bronchospasm produce?

Because it feels like you are not getting enough air, bronchospasm can be frightening. Your first bronchospasm can be particularly alarming if you’ve never had one before.

If you experience sudden or severe bronchospasm symptoms, such as chest pain, trouble breathing, or wheezing, you immediately seek medical attention at the local emergency hospital.

What signs or symptoms indicate bronchospasm?

The symptoms of bronchospasm can be horrific and may appear suddenly.

People with the illness frequently experience shortness of breath. Other bronchospasm signs and symptoms include;

1. Chest tightness.

2. Respiration difficulty.

3. Wheezing.

4. Coughing.

5. Tiredness.

6. Dizziness.

While some may believe it to be a breathing issue that could get worse, others may be concerned that it may be connected to sudden infant death syndrome.

Breathing Spasms after eating

Aside from crying, some people get breathing spasms after eating, known as laryngospasms. Laryngospasm is an uncommon but terrifying occurrence.

When it occurs, the vocal cords unexpectedly tighten or seize up while inhaling, preventing air from entering the lungs.

People with this illness may suddenly find themselves unable to speak or breathe after being roused from a deep sleep.

Even though it can be frightful while it’s happening, Laryngospasm usually passes in minutes.

Causes of Laryngospasm

Asthma, allergies, exercise, irritants (smoke, dust, fumes), stress, anxiety, and gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) are some potential causes of Laryngospasm.

When the ring-shaped muscle that usually contracts to prevent the contents of the stomach from backing up doesn’t function properly, gastrointestinal reflux disease is a disorder that results.

With reflux, the esophagus becomes irritated when strong stomach acids ascend into it.

The sensitive lining of the esophagus can be harmed and inflamed by repeated exposure to stomach acids.

Temporary vocal cord spasms caused by this damage can block the airway and prevent oxygen and air from reaching the lungs.

Laryngospasm can also develop after surgery. Particularly in children, the anesthesia used during the procedure can irritate the vocal cords and may be fatal if anesthesia causes Laryngospasm.

Final thoughts

Children breathing spasms after crying can be highly concerning, especially for new parents, but they are most likely the result of a developing neurological system.

Additionally, breath-holding spells, laryngomalacia, or gastric reflux may blame on irregular breathing after weeping (GERD).

When no other conditions account for this, your doctor may classify your child as having a brief, unexplained event. This may or may not warrant further testing and evaluation, depending on the circumstances.

About The Author

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top