"Breath-holding spells" refers to two distinct conditions that can occur when a child is frightened, upset or angry, or experiences a sudden shock or pain.

The child seems to stop breathing on the outward breath (exhalation), turns a deathly pale grey or blue colour, and temporarily loses consciousness.

The episodes are involuntary, which means the child can't control them. They usually last for less than a minute and, although upsetting to witness, don't harm the child.

Breath-holding spells are common, with one type or the other occurring in around1 in 20 children. They usually start between6 and 18 months of age, and affect both boys and girls equally.

In many cases they'll stop by the time the child is four or five years old, although some children will continue to experience them into adulthood.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 5 Dec 2016