Dizziness

Is this your symptom?

  • Feels dizzy or woozy
  • Feels like head or room is spinning or tilting

Types of Dizziness

There are two types of dizziness.

  • Lightheadedness: Other terms that mean the same thing are feeling faint, spacey, weak, giddy, or woozy. People with this type of dizziness may feel like they are going to pass out. This type of dizziness often is worse with standing up. It usually gets better by lying down.
  • Vertigo: People with this type of dizziness feel like the room is spinning. Or they may complain that the floor seems to be tilting. People with this type of dizziness may feel unsteady when they walk. They sometimes feel like they are going to fall down. This type of dizziness sometimes gets worse with change in head position.

Causes of Lightheadedness

This type of dizziness can be caused by any decrease in blood flow to the brain.

Anyone can have a brief dizzy spell from standing up too quickly. It can also happen from standing in one place too long. However, most often this type of dizziness is caused by getting dehydrated. This can happen from:

  • Diarrhea
  • Hot weather or too much sun
  • Sweating from sports or hard work
  • Too much time in a hot tub
  • Vomiting

Other causes are:

  • Blood loss
  • Fever
  • Flu symptom
  • Heart problems
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low oxygen
  • Panic disorder and breathing too fast
  • Some medicines

Causes of Vertigo

This type of dizziness is usually caused by nerve problems in the ear or brain.

The most common cause of this type of dizziness is an inner ear problem.

  • Benign positional vertigo
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Meniere's disease
  • Motion sickness

Other causes of vertigo are:

  • Drug abuse
  • Ear injury
  • Head injury
  • Migraine headache
  • Some medicines
  • Stroke

Severity of Dizziness is defined as:

  • Mild: normal walking
  • Moderate: trouble standing or walking, keeps person from doing normal activity (school, work)
  • Severe: can't stand, needs support to walk, feels like passing out now

When to Call for Dizziness

Call 911 Now

  • Severe trouble breathing (struggling for each breath or can't speak)
  • Trouble waking up or acting confused
  • Heart beat is very slow (less than 60 beats per minute)
  • Heart beat is very fast (more than 130 beats per minute)
  • New weakness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body
  • New numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body
  • New slurred speech or trouble speaking
  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Dizziness not better after 2 hours of rest and fluids
  • Severe headache
  • Heart pounding or extra beats (palpitations)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever over 103° F (39.4° C)
  • Fever and over 60 years old
  • Fever and have diabetes
  • Fever and have a weak immune system (such as HIV, cancer chemo, long-term steroids, splenectomy, transplant)
  • You feel dehydrated (dizzy, dry mouth, very thirsty)
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Moderate dizziness (trouble standing or walking; or keeps you from going to school or working)
  • Mild dizziness (normal walking) lasts more than 3 days
  • Feels like head or room is spinning or tilting
  • Vomiting happens with dizzy spells
  • Fever lasts more than 3 days
  • Taking new prescription drug
  • Diabetes
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Dizzy spells off and on for weeks or months (are frequent, come and go)
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Caused by standing up too quickly or standing for too long
  • Caused by hot weather
  • Caused by not drinking enough fluids
  • Caused by fever

Home Care Advice for Dizziness

Dizziness from Standing Too Long or Standing Up Too Quickly

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Standing up too quickly is the most common cause of dizziness. This type of dizziness only lasts a short time, a few seconds to a minute. Getting out of bed is when it usually happens.
    • A person can also get dizzy from standing in one place too long. Blood pools in the legs and does not get pumped back to the heart and brain.
    • Not drinking enough fluids can make this worse.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Prevention:
    • In the mornings, sit up for a few minutes before you stand up. That will help your body adjust and your blood flow better.
    • With prolonged standing, contract and relax your leg muscles. This helps pump the blood back to the heart.
    • Sit down or lie down if you feel dizzy.
  3. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You try this care advice and it does not get better
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You become worse

Dizziness from Hot Weather and Hot Tubs

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Hot weather, hot tubs, or too much sun exposure are common causes of dizziness. These cause your body to lose fluid and become dehydrated.
    • Sweating from sports and hard work can also make you get dehydrated.
    • Not drinking enough fluids will make this worse.
    • Drinking alcohol can also make it worse.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Drink Fluids:
    • Drink several glasses of fruit juice, other clear fluids, or water.
    • This will help treat dehydration and raise your blood sugar.
  3. Cool Off: If the weather is hot, apply a cold compress to the forehead or take a cool shower or bath.
  4. Rest for 1-2 Hours:
    • Lie down with your feet up for 1 hour.
    • This will improve blood flow and increase blood flow to the brain.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Still feel dizzy after 2 hours of rest and fluids
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You become worse

Dizziness from Not Drinking Enough Fluids

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Feeling thirsty is usually the first sign that you are not drinking enough fluids. If you start feeling dizzy, it may be that you are getting dehydrated.
    • It is important to drink more fluids than you lose. You can lose fluids from diarrhea, sweating, and vomiting.
    • Hot weather or a fever can make it worse.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Drink Fluids:
    • Drink several glasses of fruit juice, other clear fluids, or water.
    • This will help treat dehydration and raise your blood sugar.
  3. Rest for 1-2 Hours:
    • Lie down with feet elevated for 1 hour.
    • This will improve blood flow and increase blood flow to the brain.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Still feel dizzy after 2 hours of rest and fluids
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You become worse

Dizziness from Fever

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Having a fever most often means that you have an infection. Most fevers are good and help the body fight infection.
    • The goal of fever therapy is to bring it down. Use these numbers to help understand fevers:
      • 100-102°F (37.8 - 38.9°C): Low-grade fevers. These may help your body fight infection.
      • 102-104°F (38.9 - 40°C): Moderate-grade fevers. These may cause discomfort.
      • Over 104°F (over 40°C): High fevers. These may cause discomfort, weakness, headache, and tiredness.
      • Over 107°F (over 41.7°C): These fevers can be harmful.
    • You can treat most fevers at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. For All Fevers:
    • Drink cold fluids to stay hydrated. This replaces fluids lost when you sweat. It improves heat loss through your skin. Adults should drink 6-8 glasses of water daily.
    • Dress in one layer of lightweight clothing and sleep with one light blanket.
    • For fevers 100-101°F (37.8-38.3°C), this is the only treatment. You do not need to take fever medicine.
  3. Fever Medicine:
    • For fevers above 101° F (38.3° C) take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) fever drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • The goal for treating fever is to bring it down to a comfortable level.
    • Fever medicine usually lowers fevers by 2° F (1 - 1.5° C).
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your fever get better.
    • Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  4. Lukewarm Shower for Lowering Fever:
    • Take the fever medicine first.
    • Take a lukewarm shower or bath for 10 minutes. Lukewarm water should not make you shiver, but should cool you off. This helps fevers to go down.
    • Do not sponge yourself with rubbing alcohol.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Fever lasts more than 3 days (72 hours)
    • You become worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 9/25/2017 1:22:28 AM
Last Updated: 5/17/2017 5:42:32 PM

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