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First Aid for Fainting (Syncope)

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Fainting (or syncope) is a sudden and temporary, loss of consciousness.

What is Fainting?

  • Fainting is a sudden and temporary, loss of consciousness. It is medically termed as Syncope
  • It may be caused by a variety of factors including decreased blood sugar in the body, certain drugs, alcohol abuse, and complications related to the heart

What are the Causes of Fainting?

The common (less serious) conditions for Fainting include:

  • Heat exhaustion
  • Prolonged standing
  • Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Hyperventilation (anxiety/panic attacks)
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medications may drop one’s blood pressure and cause Fainting spells

The more serious conditions that cause Fainting include:

  • Seizures
  • Heart arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Choking
  • Drug, alcohol use (or abuse)
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Fainting?

The signs and symptoms of Fainting include:

  • Sweating
  • Face may appear pale
  • Faster rate of heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Loss of balance leading to falls
  • Vision problems

How is First Aid administered for Fainting?

First Aid tips for Fainting:

If the individual is Fainting:

  • Have him/her sit down with head between knees, or make them lie down

If the individual has Fainted:

  • Lay the individual down, flat on their back
  • Check airways for signs of breathing. If they are not breathing or moving, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR ) and call 911 or your local emergency number
  • If there is any vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, turn the person onto their side, in order to prevent them from choking
  • Slightly elevate their feet
  • Loosen their clothes
  • DO NOT move the person, if they have sustained any obvious neck or back injuries, while Fainting (or falling)

Call 911 (or your local emergency number), if the individual:

  • Does not regain consciousness within 1-2 minutes
  • Is not breathing or moving
  • Has sustained serious injuries while Fainting
  • Has problem talking or seeing
  • Is experiencing a chest pain

Who should administer First Aid for Fainting?

Anyone in close proximity of the affected individual can provide First Aid, but a trained medical professional should attend to the victim, as early as possible.

What is the Prognosis of Fainting?

The prognosis is dependent on the underlying cause of the Fainting episode and the time elapsed in seeking medical attention.

How can Fainting be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to avoid/prevent Fainting include:

  • Take (work) breaks, when working for long periods of time
  • Drink enough fluids (especially during summer), to avoid dehydration
  • Breath into a paper bag, when breathing rapidly; in case of hyperventilation from anxiety/panic attacks
  • Check blood glucose levels regularly; particularly if you are prone to have abnormal blood glucose levels
  • Check blood pressures regularly, if you have a history of high or low blood pressures
  • Wear medication alert bracelets

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Calling 911 (or your local emergency number) appropriately
  • Perform CPR, if the individual who Fainted has trouble breathing

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 26, 2013
Last updated: March 5, 2018