Breathing into a paper bag is a technique that can help you regulate hyperventilation. It works by putting some of the lost carbon dioxide back into your lungs and body. This helps to balance oxygen flow in your body.
However, breathing into a paper bag must be done properly and may not work for everyone. Medical research on using it to help hyperventilation is divided on whether it really works.
Some case studies don’t recommend using this breathing technique.
Other medical review studies find that breathing into a paper bag can help some patients with hyperventilation.
To use a paper bag to help you breathe when you’re hyperventilating, follow these steps:
Yes. Always use a small paper bag, not a plastic one. A plastic bag doesn’t work the same way and can be dangerous.
The thin plastic can get sucked into your mouth when you’re breathing in. This can be especially dangerous for smaller children and older adults.
The paper bag technique won’t help an asthma attack and can even make it worse, because you may not get enough oxygen into your body.
Don’t use this breathing technique if you have any heart or lung conditions.
Also, breathing can be more difficult than normal if you’re at a high altitude. Breathing into a paper bag won’t help with elevation changes in breathing.
Only use the bag method if you’re sure you’re having an anxiety attack. Other causes of hyperventilating include an asthma attack, fever, or other illnesses.
You might have other anxiety symptoms like:
Other remedies to help you calm down during an anxiety attack or when you’re hyperventilating include:
Tell your healthcare provider or mental health professional if you have symptoms of an anxiety attack often or hyperventilate frequently.
Get urgent medical help if you:
Breathing into a paper bag may help you breathe better during an anxiety or panic attack. This breathing technique can help some people regulate hyperventilation. However, it may not work for everyone.
You can hyperventilate for many reasons, including some health conditions. You may need other medical treatments, including oxygen therapy and medications.
Call 911 if you hyperventilate for longer than 30 minutes or begin to lose consciousness. You may need urgent medical care.
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