Fainting First Aid and Treatment

Fainting is defined as a brief loss of consciousness. There are many different causes for fainting. Fainting may be a response to a vasovagal event, which we will talk about later. Other causes can be hypovolemia, loss of body fluids, as well as loss of blood. Cardiac and neurological problems can also induce fainting.

The most common cause of fainting is a vasovagal response to stimulation of the vagus nerve, which causes the heart to slow down, resulting in not enough blood getting to the brain, causing the individual to pass out. This may also be caused by visual stimuli, for example individuals who pass out at the sight of blood. It can also occur when individuals are in a supine, lying down position. Once the person falls to the ground, the heart rate picks up and the individual may become tachycardic while the heart tries to compensate and get blood back to the brain. In this situation, applying cool compresses to the head and neck would be of benefit and also improve the patient’s comfort level. Raising the legs higher than the heart is very important as it facilitates the flow of blood back to the brain/body as quickly as possible. Individuals may appear to experience a seizure as demonstrated by jerking and eyes rolling back into the head, which can be frightening to an observer. Reassurance needs to the given to the patient, and they usually do quite well. It is also important to document a history of this; when you go into a healthcare provider’s for a blood draw or any procedure, to let the nurse and provider know that you have a history of vasovagal type responses.

In review:

  1. Elevate the individual’s legs.
  2. Cool compresses to the forehead.
  3. Reassurance.
  4. If the patient does not come around and become conscious within 2-3 minutes, call 911 and transport immediately to the hospital.
  5. In fainting episodes where individuals do become responsive, it is advisable within the first 24-48 hours that they be evaluated by a healthcare provider, especially individuals over 50 years old, to rule out an underlying cause such as cardiac or neurological abnormalities.