Fainting is a brief loss of consciousness. Someone who faints may pass out for several seconds or up to an hour.
There are many reasons people faint. Medical reasons include:
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) which is common in early pregnancy.
- Any condition in which there is a rapid loss of blood. This can be from internal bleeding such as with a peptic ulcer, or a tubal pregnancy or ruptured ovarian cyst in females.
- Heart and circulatory problems such as abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack or stroke.
- Heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
- Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia.
- Toxic shock syndrome.
Other things that can lead to feeling faint or fainting include:
- A sudden change in body position like standing up too quickly (postural hypotension).
- Extreme pain.
- Any procedure in women that stretches the cervix such as having an IUD inserted, especially in women who have never been pregnant.
- Sudden emotional stress or fright.
- Taking some prescription medicines. Examples are: some that lower high blood pressure, tranquilizers, antidepressants, or even some over-the-counter medicines when taken in excessive amounts.
Know, also, that the risk for fainting increases if you are in hot, humid weather, are in a stuffy room or have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol.
Just before fainting, a person may:
- Feel a sense of dread
- Feel dizzy
- See spots before his or her eyes
- Have nausea
Here are some dos and don’ts to remember if someone is about to faint or faints:
- Catch the person before he or she falls.
- Have the person lie down with the head below the level of the heart. Raise the legs 8 to 12 inches. This promotes blood flow to the brain. If a victim who is about to faint can lie down right away, he or she may not lose consciousness.
- Turn the victim’s head to the side so the tongue doesn’t fall back into the throat.
- Loosen any tight clothing.
- Apply moist towels to the person’s face and neck.
- Keep the victim warm, especially if the surroundings are chilly.
- Don’t slap or shake anyone who’s just fainted.
- Don’t try to give the person anything to eat or drink, not even water, until they are fully conscious.
- Don’t allow the person who’s fainted to get up until the sense of physical weakness passes. Then be watchful for a few minutes to be sure he or she doesn’t faint again.
Questions to Ask
|Is the person who fainted not breathing and does he/she not have a pulse? |
If so, seek emergency care immediately. If not, check for other signs with this list.
|Are signs of a heart attack also present with the fainting?|
If so, seek emergency care and apply First Aid. If no, keep checking for further abnormalities.
|Are signs of a stroke also present with the fainting?|
If yes, seek emergency care. If no, keep trying to figure out where the problem is coming from.
|Did the fainting come after an injury to the head? |
If yes, seek emergency care while performing First Aid.
|Do you have any of these with the fainting?|
If yes, see a doctor. If no, consider the next question.
|Have you fainted more than once? |
If yes, call a doctor. If no, keep reading.
|Do any of these apply?|
If yes, call a doctor. If no, provide self-care.
Do these things when you feel faint:
- Sit down, bend forward and put your head between your knees, or
- Lie down and elevate both legs 8 to 12 inches.
If you faint easily:
- Get up slowly from bed or from a sitting position.
- Follow your doctor’s advice to treat any medical condition which may lead to fainting. Take medicines as prescribed, but let your doctor know about any side effects so he/she can monitor your condition.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing around your neck.
- Avoid turning your head suddenly.
- Stay out of stuffy rooms and hot, humid places. If you can’t, use a fan.
- Avoid activities that can put your life in danger if you have frequent fainting spells. Examples include: Driving and climbing high places.
- Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.
For women who are pregnant:
- Get out of bed slowly.
- Keep crackers at your bedside and eat a few before getting out of bed. Try other foods such as dry toast, graham crackers, bananas, etc.
- Eat small, frequent meals instead of a few large ones. Have a good food source of protein, such as lean meat, low-fat cheese, milk, etc. with each meal. Avoid sweets. Don’t skip meals or go for a long time without eating.
- Don’t sit for long periods of time.
- Keep your legs elevated when you sit.
- When you stand, as in a line, don’t stand still. Move your legs to pump blood up to your heart.
- Take vitamin and mineral supplements as your doctor prescribes.
- Never lay on your back during the 3rd trimester. It is best to lie on your left side. If you can’t, lie on your right side.