Often in TV, a character who is panicking will be shown inhaling and exhaling into a paper bag to calm down. In milder examples, it can be used to cure hiccups. Actually Truth in Television, as breathing into a paper bag is a good way to reduce the symptoms of hyperventilation,note according to The Other Wiki. However, one should never use a plastic bag for this, because suffocation will ensue.note While there are other ways to cure hyperventilation, the paper bag is the most iconic, providing an easy visual shorthand (and comical prop) for viewers.
Compare Cathartic Exhalation.
- In the manga adaptation of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji has a panic attack and Kaworu, not being able to find a paper bag, kisses him.
- In Young Justice, the Justice League is considering disbanding their group unless they can prove themselves on a mission. Arrowette calls them out on wanting their apprentices to fail instead of hoping for them to succeed, before she storms off. Wonder Girl follows her, and when she finds her she's breathing heavily into a bag. Hey, give the girl a break. She just talked back to the Justice League.
- In It Sounds Better Than "Pity Date", Flash Sentry hands Sci-Twi a paper bag for her to breath into after Sci-Twi panics, realizing she got carried away with the "simulation date" she and Flash were on and actually tried to kiss him, knowing he likes Princess Twilight. Flash claims he brought the bag because "you never know what you might need."
- Shinji is reduced to this in Nobody Dies after being told for the first time to drive the Eva and fight an Angel.
- Runt of the Litter from Chicken Little. He hyperventilates so hard he accidentally swallows the bag, then is seen breathing on two bags at once.
- Referenced in Monsters vs. Aliens when Ginormica first sees the giant robot they have to fight.
Ginormica: I can't fight that thing! I've never... I'm hyperventilating! Does anybody have a giant paper bag?
- RJ in Over the Hedge did this once.
- Alex does this once in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.
- One of the soldiers in Windtalkers
- She Is The One: One is used to help Jack come down from a panic attack at the police station after Coach Walburn's suicide.
- Happens in one episode of Perfect Strangers.
- Josie Gibson, a contestant on Big Brother, did this once.
- Rachel is show breathing into a paper bag during the Friends pilot. And later Janice does this when Chandler reveals he saw her kissing her (supposedly soon-to-be) ex-husband. She also gags on the receipt from the large box of condoms Chandler had just purchased that was in the bag, just to be more ironic.
- In one of the many flashbacks on Lost, Hurley is seen breathing into a Mr. Clucks bag in a parking lot.
- On one episode of Diff'rent Strokes, Adelaide the housekeeper uses a paper bag to ward off an epileptic seizure.
- Main character Nina, who suffers from anxiety, does this a lot in the Australian series Offspring
- One episode of The Big Bang Theory has Sheldon breathing into a paper bag when he tells Leonard that his World of Warcraft account had been hacked.
- The Cosby Show: Elvin uses a paper bag (and is told to do so by Heathcliff) while he's hyperventilating while Sandra is giving birth.
- Ilana uses one in the Broad City episode "Destination: Wedding" to cope with the revelation that Abbi made out with another woman before they met, when Ilana wanted Abbi's first same-sex experience to be with her.
- Happy Tree Friends: Petunia in "Wishy Washy". She eventually pops the paper bag and goes for a glove instead (which of course gets stuck in her throat).
- The P-P-P-POWERBOOK! prank, a tale about one goon trying to sell a week-old Powerbook that he no longer needs on eBay, only to be approached by an obvious escrow scammer, which then turns into a fit of scamming the scammer, runs a snag when it meets a "Regulatory Agency Clearance Delay". The original seller tells the others that he might soon be needing CRP, and posts an image of himself breathing into a paper bag.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Spike does this on "A Dog And Pony Show" after Rarity has been kidnapped.
- Discord also does it in "Discordant Harmony" when he starts to panic about what kind of tea party Fluttershy might like. Being Discord, he inflates and deflates as he uses it rather than the bag.
- Twilight Sparkle does it in "The Beginning of the End" several times when she learns that Princess Celestia and Luna are abdicating their rule to her and her friends.
- On The Simpsons, in the episode "Lisa's Rival", when Lisa does this after meeting a girl who appears to be smarter than she is.
- Adventure Time: Finn starts hyperventilating when Princess Bubblegum asks him to give a science talk. Jake turns into a paper bag and tells him to just breathe into him.
- Chaz on Rugrats does this when he hears that one of his blind dates is a contortionist.
- While not for hyperventilation, Edd of Ed, Edd n Eddy breathes into one to cure his hiccups, which Eddy pops with one of his hairs.
- Lampooned in the Family Guy episode, "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire": Cleveland Brown begins to hyperventilate as he vows to kill Glenn Quagmire for sleeping with his wife. Peter grabs a plastic bag instead of a paper one, placing it over Cleveland's head and causing the latter to lose breath and pass out.
- Whenever Clyde McBride from The Loud House freaks out, he breathes into a paper bag. "Purrfect Gig" demonstrates that Howard McBride, one of his fathers, also does this whenever he's having a panic attack.
- Ready Jet Go!: In "Jet Cooks Dinner", the kids are running out of time to cook a meal for Jet's parents before they return home. This causes Sean to have a panic attack, and he briefly breathes into a brown paper bag.