Crying Spasms: What Are They and Why Do They Occur?

Crying spasms in children are often very scary for parents, but from a medical point of view they rarely represent a problem. These episodes usually come and go without major consequences.

There is talk of crying spasms to refer to the episodes in which the child cries and stops breathing for up to a minute. In some cases they can lead to children losing consciousness. They look like seizures, but they are not.

These episodes occur when the child is angry or in pain, fear, or frustration. Crying spasms usually occur between 6 months and 3 years. Some children exhibit this behavior only once in a while and others maintain it day after day.

Types of crying spasms

Crying spasms are a behavior that can generate fear in parents, although it does not usually cause major complications.

There are two types of crying spells, and each has its own characteristics. However, both have in common the fact that the child stops breathing and that this sometimes leads to fainting.

The two types of crying spells are as follows:

  • Cyanotic crying spasms. The child's face gradually turns blue and sometimes turns purple. They are almost always caused by anger or frustration and are the most common form.
  • Pale crying spasms. They occur when the child has a sudden start, pain, or sudden intense fear. Unlike the previous ones, in these the child's face looks pale. Low heart rate.

What Causes Crying Spasms?

Science has not established the precise cause of crying spells. It is known to be a response to an intense emotional state or to some sudden physical pain. It is also known that there is a change in breathing and a decrease in heart rate.

The exact cause is not known. However, it has been established that in up to one third of children who present with these episodes there is a family history of the same condition. Similarly, a link has been found between crying spells and iron deficiency anemia.

Read also: Habits to be instilled in children

Breath retention is not voluntaryrather, it occurs automatically. Nor is it directly caused by a health problem and does not cause harm to the child.

Related symptoms

The signs and symptoms associated with crying spells vary depending on the type of crying. In the case of blue spasms, or cyanotic breath holding, the following manifestations are seen:

  • Crying with or without screams.
  • The child exhales forcefully and then no longer inhales, but holds his breath.
  • The face takes on a blue hue, especially around the mouth. This color is due to a lack of oxygen.
  • Sometimes the body becomes weak and there may be fainting.

In pale spasms, or pale breathlessness, the symptoms are as follows:

  • The child opens his mouth as if to cry or scream, but no sound comes out.
  • Faints and looks very pale, almost completely white.
  • The arms and legs become stiff for a short time.
  • Sometimes they lose bladder and bowel control.

When should you see a doctor?

Faced with the presence of crying spasms, it is best to consult with the pediatrician to rule out other ailments.

Some doctors recommend consulting a health professional from the first episode of crying spells. The suggestion is that it should not be taken for granted that it is this problem, but rather that it is convenient to obtain an expert diagnosis.

Sometimes these types of spasms are not an intense emotional and physical reaction to an unpleasant stimulus, but rather could be a manifestation of a more serious health problem. A cardiac arrhythmia, iron deficiency anemia, or seizure disorder must be ruled out.

It is particularly important to see a doctor in these circumstances:

  • When the episodes are very frequent.
  • If the episode lasts more than two minutes.
  • When the child appears confused or sleepy several hours later of the episode.
  • If there is any doubt about the child's health condition.

Do not miss: My baby cries after feeding: what to do?

Diagnosis and treatments

There are no specific tests to diagnose crying spells.. It helps for parents to take note of what happens during these episodes and then report it to the doctor. The most common is that the diagnosis is made based on this information and on a clinical examination.

If the doctor suspects that another health problem is involved, he or she may refer the child to another specialist or indicate the need for some clinical tests.

There is also no specific treatment for this problem. Most commonly, these episodes stop occurring as the child grows. Iron supplementation may sometimes be necessary if anemia is present. Although this can be frustrating for parents, it is best to wait for time to pass.

Prevention and recommendations

Crying spasms occur until the child finds better coping strategies for frustration or anger. The doctor, in principle, will help the parents to identify the triggers of these episodes.

Then could provide mechanisms and strategies to discipline the childwithout causing a spasm. They will also give directions to learn to set limits and help the child to develop more coping skills.

It is important that parents avoid giving in to the child for fear of crying spells. On the other hand, before an episode of these, it is best to remain calm. With younger children, sometimes just blowing on their faces is enough. In the event that the child passes out, the best thing to do is to do the following:

  • Check the child's mouth. If there is an object inside, take it out.
  • Put the child on his side.
  • Remove objects that are nearby. If you have a sudden movement or seizure, you could hurt yourself.
  • If after one minute you cannot recover your breath, administer CPR and call or go to the emergency room.

Crying spasms are usually not serious

Crying spells are sometimes very distressing for parents. However, it should be noted that in most cases they do not represent any danger. If there are difficulties in dealing with the situation, it is best to consult with the doctor for guidance.

It is important to teach the child to deal with his emotions, especially fear, anger, or frustration. He should be encouraged to put his feelings into words. You also have to offer him ways to relax and rest properly.