Fainting

Is this your symptom?

  • Fainting is when a person loses consciousness for a short amount of time

Some Basics...

  • Fainting is a brief loss of consciousness. It is also called syncope or "passing out".
  • Fainting happens when there is short-term decrease in blood flow to the brain.
  • The causes of fainting can be serious or not serious. About 80% of all faints are simple faints and are not serious.
  • People who are mildly dehydrated or fasting may be more likely to faint. Other factors include hot weather, lack of sleep, recent illness, being pregnant, or a change in altitude.
  • A person should wake up and be alert less than 1 minute after fainting. They should feel normal within 10 minutes after fainting. If the person does not wake up within 1 minute, it is not just a fainting spell.

Symptoms

  • Before: Sometimes there are warning signs for 10-15 seconds right before fainting. Signs may include feeling dizzy, sweating, nausea, or blurred vision.
  • Fainting: Loss of consciousness. The person may slump over or fall to the ground.
  • After: The person usually wakes up in less than 1 minute. The person may feel weak or tired for a few minutes afterwards.

Causes

  • Anemia
  • Dehydration
  • Heart attack
  • Heart beat is irregular, too fast, or too slow
  • Internal bleeding
  • Medications
  • Simple faint
  • Stroke

What is a Simple Faint?

Healthy adults can have simple faints. They can be caused by stress, pain, standing for a long time, or standing up too quickly. About 80% of all faints are simple faints. Simple faints are also called vasovagal or vasomotor syncope.

Some people are much more prone to having a simple faint than others.

A person often has warning sign before a simple faint: These signs include pale skin, blurry eyesight, nausea, and sweating. Others signs are feeling dizzy, cold, or warm. These last for 5-10 seconds before fainting.

Simple Faints - Why Do They Happen?

  • Prolonged standing in one position before fainting: This is called orthostatic syncope. This is a common cause of simple faints. It most often happens at church, graduations, weddings, school assemblies, and parades. It happens more often to people who keep their knees "locked." It is caused by blood pooling in the veins of the legs. Any person who stands in one position for a long time will faint.
  • Standing up suddenly before fainting: This is called orthostatic syncope. This can happen to most people if they stand up too quickly after lying down. Usually this just causes dizziness rather than fainting. .
  • Sudden fearful or disgusting event before fainting: This is called vasovagal syncope. This can happen after seeing someone vomit, bleed, or pass a stool. It can happen after seeing a badly hurt person or pet. It can also happen while getting an injection or performing in public.
  • Sudden physical pain before fainting: This is called vasovagal syncope. This can happen after getting an injection or having stitches taken out or blood drawn. These faints are most likely caused by stress rather than pain.

When is Fainting Serious?

Each of these suggests that the fainting might be from a more serious cause.

  • Also has chest pain, trouble breathing, palpitations, severe headache, or internal bleeding
  • Has known cardiac disease
  • Had a head or face injury from fainting
  • Feels less alert or unwell after fainting
  • Fainted during exercise
  • People over 50 years old

When to Call for Fainting

Call 911 Now

  • Still unconscious after 1 minute has passed
  • Trouble waking up or acting confused
  • Very weak (can't stand)
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lips or face are blue
  • Heart beat is not normal or is very fast
  • Heart beat is very slow (less than 60 beats per minute)
  • Any bleeding (vomiting blood, blood in stool, or vaginal bleeding)
  • Black stools
  • Have had heart problems or heart failure
  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Fainted and now feel fine (do not call if you know that you have "simple faint")
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Simple faint has happened more than 2 times
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Simple faint from stress, pain, standing for too long, or standing up too quickly and now feel fine

Care Advice

Treatment for Fainting

  1. Treatment:
    • Lie down with your feet up for 10 minutes. Simple fainting is caused by a short-term decrease in blood flow to the brain. Lying down helps blood flow to the brain.
    • Drink some fruit juice. This is important if you have missed a meal or not eaten in over 6 hours.
  2. What to Expect: Most people feel better after lying down for 10 minutes.
  3. Warning Signs for Fainting:
    • Fainting most often has early warning signs. These include feeling dizzy, cold, or warm. You may have blurry eyesight or a stomachache.
    • If you feel these warning signs, lie down right away. This will stop you from falling down. You only have 5 seconds to act. It is very unlikely that you will faint if you are lying down.
    • If you can't lie down, you should sit down with your head between your knees.
  4. Pregnancy Test, When in Doubt:
    • If there is a chance that you might be pregnant, use a urine pregnancy test.
    • You can buy a pregnancy test at the drugstore.
    • It works best first thing in the morning.
    • Follow all package instructions.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Faint again on the same day
    • Pregnant
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Simple Faint from Standing Up Too Quickly

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Standing up too quickly after lying down may cause you to feel dizzy.
    • It is caused by blood pooling in the veins of the legs. Because of this, for a short while there is less blood flow to the brain.
    • It is most often not serious and it can be prevented.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Prevention:
    • Most fainting can be prevented.
    • When getting out of bed, sit on the edge for a few minutes before standing. If you feel dizzy, sit or lie down.
    • Water and salt are key. If you faint often, drink extra fluids every day. Add some mildly salty foods like saltine crackers or soup to your diet.

Simple Faint from Standing for Too Long

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Standing for too long in one position is a common cause of fainting.
    • It is caused by blood pooling in the veins of the legs. Because of this, for a short while there is less blood flow to the brain.
    • It is most often not serious and can be prevented.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Prevention:
    • If you must stand for a long time, contract and relax your leg muscles. Do this every so often while you are standing. This will pump blood back to your heart.
    • Try to avoid standing in one place for too long with your knees locked.
    • Water and salt are key. If you faint often, drink extra fluids every day. Add some mildly salty foods like saltine crackers or soup to your diet.

Simple Faint from Fear, Stress, or Pain

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Some people faint if they go through a painful, frightening, or emotional event. Examples include getting an injection, having blood drawn for a test, or getting injured. Some people pass out just from seeing blood.
    • For some people, this is a normal reaction and shouldn't cause any lasting effects.
    • It is caused by blood pooling in the legs. It is also caused by a short-term decrease in blood flow to the brain.
    • It is most often not serious and can be prevented.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Prevention: You cannot always prevent fainting from stressful events. Here are some tips that may help:
    • If you know you faint under certain circumstances, lie down in advance.
    • Try thinking about something else. Think of yourself on the beach or with a friend.
    • You can also learn relaxation exercises. This is where you relax all of the muscles in your body.

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: 12/14/2017 1:32:38 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:05 PM

Copyright 2000-2017 Health Navigator, Inc. All rights reserved.

First Aid - Shock - Adult or Teen
  • Lie down with the feet elevated (Reason: counteract shock).

Note: In this illustration the individual in shock is laying down and his feet have been placed up on a stack of blankets.

First Aid - Heat Exhaustion
  • Move the victim to a cool shady area. If possible, move into an air-conditioned place.
  • The victim should lie down. Elevate the feet.
  • Undress victim (except for underwear) so the body surface can give off heat.
  • Sponge the entire body surface continuously with cool water. Fan the victim to increase evaporation.
  • Give as much cold water or sports drink (e.g., Gatorade, Powerade) as the victim can tolerate. An adult or teen with heat exhaustion should drink 2-3 cups (480-720 ml) of liquids right away to replace what was lost. Then the adult or teen should drink approximately 1 cup (240 ml) every 15 minutes for the next 1-2 hours.
First Aid - Low Blood Glucose

Awake and glucose level less than 70 mg/dl (3.9 mmol/l) or is suspected to be low:

  • Give glucose by mouth IF able to swallow.
  • Sources: juice (1 cup), honey (3 tsps), table sugar (4 tsps), glucose paste (25-50 grams)

Unconscious (unresponsive) and glucose level less than 70 mg/dl (3.9 mmol/l) or is suspected to be low:

  • Call 911

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