Panic Attacks in Children: Care Instructions

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Overview

During a panic attack, your child may have a feeling of intense fear or terror, trouble breathing, chest pain or tightness, heartbeat changes, dizziness, sweating, and shaking. A panic attack starts suddenly and usually lasts from 5 to 20 minutes but may last even longer. An attack can begin with a stressful event. Or it can happen without a cause.

Although panic attacks can cause scary symptoms, you can learn to help your child manage them with self-care, counseling, and medicine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Make sure your child goes to all counseling sessions and follow-up appointments.
  • Help your child recognize and accept their anxiety. Your child needs to learn that when faced with a situation that causes anxiety, it can help to say, "This is not an emergency. I feel uncomfortable, but I am not in danger. I can keep going even if I feel anxious."
  • Help your child learn to be kind to their body. Teach your child to:
    • Relieve tension with exercise or a massage.
    • Get enough rest.
    • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and illegal drugs. They can increase your child's anxiety level, cause sleep problems, or trigger a panic attack.
    • Learn and do relaxation techniques.
  • Help your child learn to engage their mind. Have your child get out and do something fun. Go to a funny movie, or take a walk or hike. Having too much or too little to do can make your child anxious.
  • Keep a record of your child's symptoms. Encourage your child to discuss any fears with a good friend or family member. Teens may be able to join a support group for teens with similar problems. Talking to others sometimes relieves stress.
  • Encourage your child to be active each day. Your child may like to take a walk with you, ride a bike, or play sports.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child cannot stop from hurting themself.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child mentions suicide. If a suicide threat seems real, with a specific plan and a way to carry it out, stay with your child, or ask someone you trust to stay until you get help.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has symptoms of anxiety that are new or different.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.