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11.4.2 Hyperventilation


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Hyperventilation is an increase in the rate of breathing which removes Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the body faster than is required. This induces a lowering of the acidity of the body.

The respiratory controls of the body react to the amount of CO2, in the blood. During exercise the body uses more Oxygen and more CO2, is produced. This means that an excess of CO2, will be present in the blood. The respiratory centre, in the brain, reacts to this surplus and the rate of breathing increases in both depth and rate. This increase in breathing rate removes the excess CO2 from the body. Once this excess is removed the breathing rate returns to normal.

Causes of Hyperventilation

There are many factors that can lead to hyperventilation. Most commonly, this condition results from anxiety, panic, nervousness, or stress. It often takes the form of a panic attack.

Hyperventilation may be a side effect of Hypoxia, but the following can induce an attack of:

  • Anxiety or emotional stress.
  • Motion sickness.
  • Heat.
  • Turbulence.
  • Vibration.

Hyperventilation can be a serious issue. You should seek treatment for hyperventilation when the following symptoms occur:

  • bleeding.
  • severe pain.
  • pregnancy.
  • fever.
  • the use of stimulants.
  • drug overdose (aspirin overdose, for example).
  • an infection in the lungs.
  • lung diseases, such as asthma or COPD.
  • conditions of the heart, such as a heart attack.
  • hyperventilation that gets worse.