Paper bags are well known to be used for both sick bags and panic bags. You may not know this, but it is recommended that we do not use paper bags for when we are hyperventilating. They are still good for sick bags though, if that helps.

Why is that, as if from nowhere, when a person was to start hyperventilating they would receive a paper bag to breathe into? “Breathe into that, it’ll calm you down”. They said. What they were really doing was depriving this person of much needed oxygen.

When we hyperventilate, we are breathing rapidly because the oxygen in our blood isn’t getting to its required destinations. This causes us to breathe more rapidly in the hope that we will receive more oxygen and it’ll direct to the appropriate source.  Unfortunately, the process of hyperventilation decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood even more so and worsens the problem.

We also have carbon dioxide in our blood, which we need. If we have too little carbon dioxide in our blood it can cause vasoconstriction. This is where our blood vessels are narrowed, suppressing the blood supply from extremities of the body.

The use of a paper bag (and breathing back in our released carbon dioxide), increases the amount of carbon dioxide in our blood. When we have more carbon dioxide in our blood it triggers the oxygen to be

Whilst using a paper bag to help calm down and treat the foremost symptoms of hyperventilation, doctors are recommending that we stop doing it. The reason for this is that we don’t know exactly what is causing the hyperventilation. Whilst some people may benefit from a paper bag (such as someone having a panic attack), other conditions may be hindered by the increase of carbon dioxide in their blood (and may even be killed by this). It’s often best to let the patient hyperventilate for a while – and call a doctor if they can’t stop.


If you need some sick bags though, I know a really good place.