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

A common cause of fainting is a sudden reduction of blood flow to the brain which results from a temporary drop in blood pressure and pulse rate. These lead to a brief loss of consciousness. A fainting victim may pass out for several seconds or up to ½ hour.

There are many reasons why women faint. Medical reasons include:

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) which is common in early pregnancy.
  • Anemia.
  • Any condition in which there is a rapid loss of blood. This can be from internal bleeding such as with a peptic ulcer, a tubal pregnancy or a ruptured cyst.
  • Heart and circulatory problems such as abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack or stroke.
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia.
  • Toxic shock syndrome.

Other things that can lead to feeling faint or fainting include:

  • Any procedure that stretches the cervix such as having an IUD inserted, especially in women who have never been pregnant.
  • Extreme pain.
  • A sudden change in body position like standing up too quickly (postural hypotension).
  • Sudden emotional stress or fright.
  • Taking some prescription drugs. Examples are: Some that lower high blood pressure, tranquilizers, antidepressants, or even some over-the-counter drugs such as antihistamines, when taken in excessive amounts.
  • Know, also, that the risk for fainting increases if you are in hot, humid weather, are in a stuffy room or have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol.

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

Dos:

  • Catch the person before he or she falls.
  • 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 potential fainting victim can lie down right away, he or she may not lose consciousness.
  • Turn the victim’s head to the side so the tongue doesn’t fall back into the throat.
  • Loosen any tight clothing.
  • Apply moist towels to the person’s face and neck.
  • Keep the victim warm, especially if the surroundings are chilly.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t slap or shake anyone who’s just fainted.
  • Don’t try to give the person anything to eat or drink, not even water, until they are fully conscious.
  • 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.

Questions to Ask

Is the person who fainted not breathing and does he/she not have a pulse?Yes: Seek Care
No
Are signs of a heart attack also present with the fainting?
  • Chest pain or pressure.
  • Pain that spreads to the arm, neck or jaw.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Sweating.
  • Rapid, slow or irregular heartbeat.
  • Anxiety.
Yes: Seek Care
No

Are signs of a stroke also present with the fainting?

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg.
  • Temporary loss of vision or speech, double vision.
  • Sudden, severe headache.
Yes: Seek Care
No
Did the fainting come after an injury to the head.Yes: Seek Care
No
Do you have any of these with the fainting?
  • Pelvic pain?
  • Black stools?
Yes:See Doctor
No
Have you fainted more than once?Yes:Call Doctor
No
Are you taking high blood pressure drugs or have you recently taken a new or increased dose of prescription medicine?Yes:Call Doctor
No
Self-Care

Self-Care Procedures

Do these things when you feel faint:

  • Lie down and elevate both legs.
  • Sit down, bend forward and put your head between your knees.

    If you faint easily:

  • Get up slowly from bed or from a sitting position.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice to treat any medical condition which may lead to fainting. Take medicines as prescribed but let your doctor know about any side effects, so he/she can monitor your condition.
  • Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing around your neck.
  • Avoid turning your head suddenly.
  • Stay out of stuffy rooms and hot, humid places. If you can’t, use a fan.
  • Avoid activities that can put your life in danger if you have frequent fainting spells, such as driving a motor vehicle and climbing to high places.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.

    When pregnant:

  • Get out of bed slowly.
  • Keep crackers at your bedside and eat a few before getting out of bed. Try other foods such as dry toast, graham crackers, bananas, etc.
  • Eat small, frequent meals instead of a few large. Have a good food source of protein, such as lean meat, low-fat cheese, milk, etc., with each meal. Avoid sweets. Don’t skip meals or go for a long time without eating.
  • Don’t sit for long periods of time.
  • Keep your legs elevated when you sit.
  • When you stand, as in a line, don’t stand still. Move your legs to pump blood up to your heart.
  • Take vitamin and mineral supplements as your doctor prescribes.
  • Never lay on your back during the 3rd trimester. It is best to lay on your left side. If you can’t, lay on your right side
.
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