Breathing that slows down or stops from any cause is called apnea.
Apnea of prematurity
Sudden infant death syndrome(SIDS)
Respiration slowed or stopped; Not breathing; Respiratory arrest; Apnea
Apnea can come and go and be temporary. This can occur with obstructive sleep apnea, for example.
Prolonged apnea means a person has stopped breathing. If the heart is still active, the condition is known as respiratory arrest. This is a life-threatening event that requires immediate medical attention and first aid.
Prolonged apnea accompanied by lack of any heart activity in a person who is not responsive is called cardiac (or cardiopulmonary) arrest. In infants and children, the most common cause of cardiac arrest is respiratory arrest. In adults, the opposite usually occurs: Cardiac arrest leads to respiratory arrest.
Apnea can occur for many different reasons. The most common causes of apnea in infants and small children are usually different from the most common causes in adults.
Common causes of apnea in infants and young children include:
Asthma Bronchiolitis Choking Encephalitis
Gastroesophageal reflux(heartburn) Holding one's breath Meningitis Pneumonia Premature birth Seizures
Common causes of apnea in adults include:
- Asthma or other lung diseases
- Cardiac arrest
- Drug overdose, especially due to alcohol, narcotic painkillers, barbiturates, anesthetics, and other depressants (See:
Drug abuse first aid)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
Other causes of apnea include:
Head or brainstem injury
- Irregular heartbeat (See:
- Metabolic disorders
- Stroke and other neurological disorders
Review Date: 01/07/2011
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.