39. What to Do for Fainting

Just before fainting, you may feel a sense of dread, followed by the sense that everything around you is swaying. And you may see spots before your eyes. Then you go into a cold sweat, your face turns pale, and you topple over.

A person who faints may pass out for several seconds or up to 30 minutes. The cause is a sudden reduction of blood flow or glucose supply to the brain. This can be due to emotional stress; extreme pain; a sudden change in body position, like standing up too quickly (postural hypotension); abnormal heart rhythm; stroke; heart attack; or low blood sugar.

Here are some dos and don’ts to remember if someone faints.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Catch the person before he or she falls.

  2. Place the person in a horizontal position with the head below the level of the heart and the legs raised to promote blood flow to the brain. (If a person who is about to faint can lie down right away, he or she may not lose consciousness.)

  3. Turn the person’s head to the side.

  4. Check for a medical alert tag. Call the emergency number, if there is one. Or, call for emergency medical care.

  5. Loosen any tight clothing.

  6. Keep the person warm, especially if the surroundings are chilly.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do:

  1. Don’t slap or shake anyone who’s just fainted.

  2. Don’t try to give the person anything to drink, not even water.

  3. Don’t allow the person who’s fainted to get up until the sense of physical weakness passes and then be watchful for a few minutes to be sure he or she doesn’t faint again.

If you’re prone to fainting spells, find out why. Fainting (not linked to disease) tends to take place in a warm, crowded room, or when your stomach is empty, or when you’re in pain, or after an injury. Poor physical condition can leave you more prone to fainting.

If you get dizzy or feel the room is spinning when you stand up or after you have been standing in one position for too long, you may have postural hypotension. To prevent this from happening, try to take your time standing up from a sitting or lying position (count to 60) and don’t stand still for long periods of time. Also, discuss medications you take with your doctor. Blood pressure drugs increase the risk of postural hypotension and your medication may have to be altered. You may need to wear elastic stockings to increase blood flow from the extremities and help prevent fainting.

Chapter 1
  1. Fast Relief for Everyday Health Problems