Telling the difference between the two types

It isn't always possible to tell the difference between a blue breath-holding spell and a reflex anoxic seizure. However, in most cases the advice will be the same reassurance and treatment for iron deficiency.

If episodes are very frequent or severe, it's worth trying to distinguish betweenthem.

The main features of a blue breath-holding spell are:

  • they usually occur when the child is very upset and cries vigorously
  • the child turns blue and stops breathing after a series of sobs where they breath out (exhale)
  • breathing will resume after gasping or taking an inward breath
  • the child may go stiff or floppy while unconscious

The main features of reflex anoxic seizures are:

  • they usually occur when the child has a sudden, unexpected fright or pain the trigger may not always be obvious
  • the childmay or may not cry or sob first
  • they typically go a deathly pale grey colour and collapse, losing consciousness
  • theyoften go stiff rather than floppy, and then gasp as they come round when their colour returns
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018