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  » First Aid  »  Fainting
Fainting (syncope) occurs when the brain temporarily does not have adequate blood flow, causing the person to black out. When the head is lower than the heart, blood rushes to the head and consciousness is restored. There are many causes of fainting, ranging from benign to very serious. Some people faint at the sight of blood, after experiencing intense pain or emotional shock, or as a result of severe anxiety or fatigue. These spells are due to reflexes that slow the heart and dilate blood vessels, resulting in a drop in blood pressure. Fainting is not uncommon during the early stages of pregnancy. Cardiovascular, neurological, and metabolic problems (such as hypoglycemia) and adverse drug reactions are other causes of fainting. Anyone who experiences a fainting episode or blackout should immediately consult a doctor about the cause.

  • Lay the person on her back with the head lower than the heart and legs. Check for breathing and feel carefully for a pulse, which may be slow and weak immediately after the person faints. If you cannot detect a heartbeat or breathing, begin CPR.
  • If breathing and pulse are present, raise the legs higher than the head to promote the flow of blood to the heart and brain. This should quickly revive the person.
  • Loosen clothing and make the victim comfortable.
  • When the person revives, color returns to the face, and pulse is normal, suggest lying or sitting quietly for a few minutes before attempting to stand. A weak or "washed out" feeling after a faint is common.
  • Determine if there are other symptoms, such as chest pain, palpitations, difficulty breathing, headache, vertigo, weakness or loss of sensation on one side of the body, or difficulty speaking. Try to determine if there is an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease. If so, or if this is the first episode of fainting or if more than a few minutes elapse before complete recovery, transport the person to a hospital as soon as possible.
  • If the faint feeling returns, have the person lie down again.
  • Do not give an alcoholic drink or splash cold water on her face. (That works only in the movies.) A cold compress may be applied to the forehead.