- Fainting (passing out) is when a person loses consciousness for a short amount of time. Usually the person falls to the ground or slumps over
- Awakens in less than 1 minute.
Findings Suggestive of Serious Cause for Fainting
- Introduction: Simple faints can occur in healthy individuals due to stress, pain, prolonged standing, or suddenly standing up. It is the most common reason for syncope; perhaps 80% of all fainting occurs in this manner. It is also called vasovagal or vasomotor syncope.
- Warning Signs (pre-syncope): There are a number of warning signs that occur immediately before a simple faint. These include pallor, dizziness (lightheadedness), feeling cold or warm, blurred vision, nausea or vague stomach discomfort, sweating, feeling cold. These warning symptoms last for 5 to 10 seconds before passing out occurs. Fainting can sometimes be prevented by sitting down, or even better lying down.
- Symptoms: A brief period of warning symptoms (e.g., dizziness, nausea), followed by unconsciousness, with return to full awareness usually in less than 1 minute; afterwards feeling normal.
- Expected Course: There is often a feeling of tiredness or mild malaise (e.g, being "washed out") for a period of time after a vasovagal fainting episode.
- Predisposing Factors: mild dehydration, fasting, hot weather, sleep-deprived, recent illness, pregnancy, change in altitude.
- Causes: Listed below.
Simple Faints - Causes
- Prolonged standing in one position prior to fainting(called orthostatic syncope): This is a common cause of simple faints. It commonly occurs at church, graduations, weddings, school assemblies, parades, etc. It is more common if one keeps one's knees “locked” – due to pooling of blood in the legs. Anyone who stands long enough in one position will eventually faint.
- Standing up suddenly (especially after lying down) prior to fainting (called orthostatic syncope): Usually this just causes brief dizziness.
- Sudden fearful or disgusting event (emotional pain) prior to fainting (called vasovagal syncope): Examples are any kind of "blood and guts" scenario such as seeing someone vomit, bleed or pass a stool. Seeing a badly injured person or pet can precipitate syncope. It can also occur prior to an injection or public performance (e.g., a speech or musical recital).
- Sudden physical pain prior to fainting(called vasovagal syncope). Examples are receiving an injection (e.g., post immunization syncope), having a sliver or sutures removed, or blood draw for lab tests. The stress of the experience probably has more to do with the syncope than the pain itself.
FIRST AID Advice for Fainting: Lie down with the feet elevated.
Should I Call?
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If
- Still unconscious after 1 minute has passed
- Difficult to awaken or acting confused
- Very weak (can't stand)
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Lips or face are blue
- Heart is beating irregularly or very fast (i.e., palpitations)
- Heart is beating too slowly (i.e., less than 60 beats per minute)
- Any bleeding (including vomiting blood, blood in stool, or vaginal bleeding)
- Black bowel movements
- History of heart problems or congestive heart failure
- Pregnant or possibly pregnant
- Any head or face injury
- Occurred during exercise
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
Self Care at Home If
- Simple faint due to stress, pain, prolonged standing, or suddenly standing up and you now feel completely fine, and you don't think you need to be seen
Care at Home
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR SIMPLE FAINT
- Lie down with feet elevated for 10 minutes Reason: simple fainting is due to temporarily decreased blood flow to the brain.
- Drink some fruit juice, especially if you have missed a meal or have not eaten in over 6 hours.
- Expected Course: Most adults with a simple faint are back to normal after lying down for 10 minutes.
Warning Symptoms for Fainting:
- Pregnancy test, when in doubt:
- If there is any possibility of pregnancy, obtain and use a urine pregnancy test from the local drug store.
- Follow the instructions included in the package.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- You pass out again on the same day
- You are pregnant
- You become worse
And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
First Aid - Heat Exhaustion
- Move to a cool shady area. If possible, move into an air-conditioned place.
- Remove excess clothing or equipment (e.g., sports gear).
- Lie down with the feet elevated.
- Sponge the entire body surface continuously with cool water (as cool as tolerated without shivering). Fan the victim to increase evaporation.
- Give the victim cold water or sports drink (e.g., Gatorade).
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 gms)
Unconscious and glucose level less than 70 mg/dl (3.9 mmol/l) or is suspected to be low:
First Aid - Shock
- 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.
Source: LMS Inc.
Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.
Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 6/11/2011
Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Portions Copyright 2000-2012 Self Care Decisions LLC; Copyright LMS, Inc.