What is fainting?

Most people suffer at least one fainting attack during the course of their lifetime. While fainting attacks can sometimes be linked to conditions of the heart, blood pressure, circulation and breathing they most commonly occur in people who are otherwise perfectly healthy.

Most fainting attacks occur in people who are otherwise perfectly healthy

How does it happen?

We have all heard the expression 'I feel faint' and the most common situations in which a fainting attack is likely to take place are:

  • situations of extreme stress.
  • high excitement.
  • severe pain.

There is a definite link between physical and mental strain in situations where people faint. For example, standing in an overheated and overcrowded airport for a prolonged period of time may trigger a fainting attack, or being involved in a minor car accident may lead to a person fainting even when they have received no other injuries.

What are the warning signs?

A person who is about to faint will usually turn very pale, start sweating and may also feel sick. They will usually complain that their sight is suddenly fading and everything appears to be turning black. Fainting takes place very suddenly and unexpectedly, and it can occur while standing, sitting down or if someone gets up from a sitting position very quickly.

First-aid for someone who feels faint

If you find yourself in the company of someone who feels faint they will probably be able to alert you to the fact that they are about to faint. Try to help them to lie down with their head lowered and their legs raised. This position helps the blood to flow back to the brain quickly.

If the person slumps back into a sitting position remove them from the chair and put them into a horizontal position. Remaining seated will stop the fainting episode from correcting itself.

If the patient remains unconscious, what should I do?

Fainting attacks are usually short, lasting for less than a minute in the vast majority of cases. However, if someone falls unconscious and remains in that state for more than one or two minutes, medical assistance should be sought.

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