Spasms of sob or emotional apnea: why it occurs and what to do when it seems that our child does not "start crying"

"Sob spasms or emotional apnea" are pictures in which the child is out of breath after prolonged expiration, which usually occurs as a result of an episode of crying or anger. Although it is extremely distressing for parents, most of the time it is a case of mild cases that disappear by themselves around four or five years.

We explain in more detail what is sob spasm, why does it occur, and how we should act if we witness this episode.

What are sob spasms and what are their symptoms?

As we advanced at the beginning, sob spasms are involuntary episodes in which, when trying to take a breath to cry, the child stops breathing sharply (colloquially we say that "he has been deprived").

In most occasions the color of the skin and lips becomes bluish (although in less frequent cases it may turn pale), and very agitated movements occur that could be confused with seizures, although they are not.

After 10-15 seconds of apnea, the child starts crying again, although on occasion the episode may be prolonged longer, leading to a brief loss of consciousness in which he will lie on the floor, with his eyes open and very stiff muscles.

Although its nature is benign and has no health risks, the situation is really shocking for parents, who feel confused and do not know how to act.

When do they occur?

The spasms of the sob they are preceded by a strong emotion that the child does not know how to manage, like a fright or shock, a fall or, as in most cases, a tantrum.

According to pediatricians, its incidence is five percent in children between six months and five years, age at which most episodes disappear, as children have already developed sufficient skills to deal with trigger situations.

Is there any disease associated with sob spasms?

There is no association with any disease, nor an increased risk of suffering from epilepsy or sudden death. As we can read on the web Family and health of the AEPap, "it is believed that sob spasms are related to an alteration of the regulation of the Autonomous Nervous System by different mechanisms. As a consequence, a temporary decrease in cerebral blood supply originates."

Further, a genetic or family component has been observed, so that in 35% of cases there are parents or grandparents who also suffered from children, as well as a brother.

What to do (and what not) before this type of episodes

As distressing and frustrating as it may seem, we must not act in any special way before a sob spasm, because after the more or less prolonged episode, the child starts to cry and breathes normally again, without this having had any impact on his health.

Pediatricians insist on the importance of keeping calm and waiting for it to pass, without shaking, screaming, or hitting the child, as we could cause unintentional injuries. In Babies and moreHospitalize a baby who could go blind from 'Shaken Baby Syndrome'

Yes, It is important to ensure that the episode is not occurring for other reasons, such as the aspiration of a foreign body or a serious respiratory problem.

So, and according to the recommendation of the experts, if our son presented a sob spasm we will act as follows:

  • We will remain next to the child at all times, reassuring him and keeping us calm too.
  • We must ensure that our child is in a safe and clear place, to avoid hitting him in case of falling the ground or losing consciousness.
  • Another recommendation that we can follow is to lie on the floor and place it on its side.
  • We must not perform any resuscitation maneuver.

Pediatricians also insist on the importance of not giving in to the child's pressures if we identify that the cause of the spasm is due to a tantrum. And it is usually common that to try to avoid these unpleasant moments, parents overprotect their children or give them everything they ask, perpetuating this type of episodes with their attitude.

In any case, and despite its benign nature, it is recommended to consult with the pediatrician when it happens, so that he offers us more information and gives us the keys to act safely.

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