Get the facts about nutrition and dietary information. Learn about healthy food, vitamins and dietary supplements.

Symptoms, diagnosis and prevention, rehabilitaion & information of specific conditions.

Not Feeling well?


secure email

Keep Your Personal Information Safe

Health Encylopedia

Rapid breathing
Definition Excessive, rapid, and deep breathing resulting in the decrease of carbon dioxide in the blood.
Alternative Names Fast breathing; Tachypnea; Respiratory rate-rapid; Breathing - rapid; Hyperventilation; Increased rate of breathing
Considerations Hyperventilation is not uncommon in young adults. It is more common in women, but is also frequent in men. It usually occurs in people who are nervous and tense, but can also be a symptom of certain diseases and disorders.
Common Causes
  • anxiety
  • and nervousness
  • stress
  • situations where there is a psychological advantage in having a sudden, dramatic illness
  • stimulant
  • use
  • asthma
  • chronic obstructive
  • pulmonary disease ( COPD )
  • bronchitis
  • pneumonia
  • cardiac disease such as congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease or valvular disease
  • severe pain
  • drugs (such as an
  • aspirin overdose )
  • ketoacidosis
  • and similar medical conditions
  • pulmonary fibrosis
  • chemical pneumonitis
  • pleurisy
  • pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung)
  • Home Care Symptoms that result from rapid breathing can often be eliminated by breathing into a paper bag, so that the carbon dioxide is taken back into the lungs. This process usually takes anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes with a small PAPER bag held loosely over both the nose and the mouth. Reassure the person that the hyperventilation is a symptom, not a disease. Usually when the anxiety or fear subsides, the symptom will subside also.
    Call your health care provider if
  • you fear whether there is another cause for the hyperventilation other than stress or anxiety.
  • there is severe pain.
  • hyperventilation persists despite home treatment, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms.
  • What to expect at your health care provider's office The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed. Medical history questions documenting your symptom in detail may include:
  • How fast is the breathing?
  • Is there
  • nasal flaring , use of the chest muscles ( intercostal retractions ), blue skin ( cyanosis ), or other signs of difficulty breathing ?
  • Does the person feel short of breath? Do they complain of air
  • hunger ?
  • What physical problems does the person have? Are they diabetic or have preexistent heart or lung disease?
  • What medications has the person taken?
  • What is happening in the person's life?
  • Is there a feeling of
  • anxiety or stress ?
  • Did anxiety trigger the hyperventilation, or did the hyperventilation occur and then the person become anxious?
  • Is there pain? How much? What type? Where?
  • What other symptoms are also present?
  • The physical examination will include an examination of the heart and lungs. Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:
  • ECG
  • X-rays of the chest
  • blood tests including
  • arterial blood gases Intervention: An anti-anxiety drug may be administered if this is thought to be the cause of the hyperventilation. Counseling may also be appropriate. Any other medical problem must be dealt with individually. After seeing your health care provider: You may want to add a diagnosis related to hyperventilation to your personal medical record.