General Question

Rotwang's avatar

What does breathing into a paper bag really do?

Asked by Rotwang (296points) October 5th, 2008

this seems like some kind of psycho-trick.

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13 Answers

Nimis's avatar

I think it’s meant to regulate the amount of air you breathe in and out.
And something about increasing carbon monoxide levels?

Though after reading several articles, it would seem that
this is not the best treatment for hyperventilation?

PIXEL's avatar

Its when people are stressed and they feel like theyre about to vomit. Its so you dont make a mess and vomit in the bag incase.

kevbo's avatar

@nimis, carbon di oxide. You’re rebreathing your own air, so the O2 level goes down which calms you down. (Correct me if I’m wrong anyone. I’m not fact checking tonight.)

El_Cadejo's avatar

Thats what i always thought it was as well kevbo

Nimis's avatar

Oops, yes. Carbon dioxide, not monoxide.

But I think it’s actually the increase in CO2 that calms you down?
Something about pH levels or whatnot. (Also too lazy to fact check tonight.)

PIXEL's avatar

I always thought it was incase you barfed

shrubbery's avatar

CO 2 is the main thing that will control the rate and depth of breathing. This is due to aerobic respiration at the cell level. Alveoli in the lungs have a greater O 2 concentration than the capillaries running past, so the O 2 diffuses into the capillary to attach to red blood cells to be taken to the body (to be used for cell metabolism). There is a higher concentration of CO 2 coming from the body (waste product of cells) in the capillaries, so this diffuses into the alveoli to be breathed out.

In more detail, After using O 2, Mitochondria produce CO 2 which diffuses into the water in the bloodstream to create carbonic acid.

CO 2 + H 2 0——> H 2 CO 3 ==> H+ ions + HCO 3 + ions

These ions are attached to the red blood cells, which are also carrying heomoglobins which transport oxygen to release in the cell. They also pick up the HCO 3 ions and transport to the lungs, where they are released and go back to being H 2 CO 3.

So anyway, hyperventilating causes your O 2 concentration to rise and your CO 2 concentration to drop, which will eventually cause you to pass out if you can’t stop. So breathing into a paper bag and then re-breathing that same air will mean that you are breathing in CO 2 instead of O 2 which should bring both levels up to normal, just don’t keep breathing the CO 2 cause you will suffocate yourself!

Nimis is right, there’s something in there about the pH and stuff but I’m not quite sure where that fits in or how it works, I’m sorry. I may have got something wrong up there, this is only from year 11 Biology haha.

Spargett's avatar

Pure oxygen also has a euphoric effect, though it isn’t as readily available as a paper bags tends to be.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Shrubbery has it.

In short: hyperventilating causes you to get too much Oxygen which is problematic.
Breathing in a bag limits the amount of oxygen available. Don’t do it for too long.

Nimis's avatar

Shrub: Thanks for saving us lazy folks.

shrubbery's avatar

no problem, I was having a hard time getting my head around it after class so explaining it to you made it clearer for me, so thank you !

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Typically people rebreath using a paper bag to stop the hiccups.
Doing so increased the concentration of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the blood. This settles down the spasms in the diaphagm that we call hiccups.
You should rebreath 10 breaths with the bag covering your nose and mouth.
You should then remove the bag and breath normally for 15 seconds.
Repeat if necessary (if you still have the hiccups).
Hyperventilating (breathing in and out rapidly can elevate your oxygen levels and lower you CO2 levels) and can cause hiccups.

Now you know why breathing in and out of a paper bag is done and how it should be done safely.

6rant6's avatar

I thought it was that tranquilizing crinkly paper noise…

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