Emergency advice


  1. Be kind and reassure them.
  2. Take them somewhere quiet.
  3. Encourage them to seek medical advice.
  4. If worried, call 999.

What is hyperventilation?

Hyperventilation is unnatural, fast or deep breathing, normally caused by anxiety, experiencing an emotional upset or a history of panic attacks.

Signs and symptoms

Look for:

  • abnormally fast or deep breathing
  • anxiety
  • a fast pulse-rate.

Later they may develop:

  • dizziness or feeling faint
  • trembling, sweating and dry mouth
  • tingling and cramps in hands, feet and around the mouth.

What to do

  1. Try to reassure the casualty and be kind. If you can, take them to a quiet place. This may help them to regain control of their breathing. Ask any bystanders to leave. Give the casualty space.

    • Do not advise the casualty to breathe into a paper bag as this could make the condition worse.
  2. Encourage them to seek medical advice, so they can learn how to prevent and control hyperventilation or a panic attack in the future.

    • It is rare for children to suffer from hyperventilation, so you should try looking for other causes.
    • If you are worried, and they do not seem to improve, call 999 or 112 and ask for an ambulance.

Related first aid advice

How to do the primary survey

Use the primary survey to quickly assess the situation and check the casualty for injuries or conditions that could be immediately life threatening. Find out what to do.

How to do a baby primary survey

The primary survey is a quick way to find out how to treat any life threating conditions a baby may have using DRABC. Learn what to do.

Who should I call?

At some point in their life, most people will witness or be involved in an accident or medical emergency. Knowing what to do and when you should call the emergency services can potentially save lives.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support