Fainting is a brief loss of consciousness. Someone who faints may pass out for several seconds or up to an hour. It is important that you get to the bottom of the reason. Naturally, the person should consult a physician but in an emergency, these are the steps to follow. Keep records so that you can hand them to medical professions when the time arises. Being self-reliant means keeping tabs on everyone!
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.