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    Syncope (Fainting)

    Updated at October 20th, 2022

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    DisclaimerThis material is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Nor does not replace the advice or counsel of a doctor or health care professional. Reference to a specific commercial product or service does not imply endorsement or recommendation of that product or service by CPCMG.


    Definition

    • Fainting is a sudden loss of consciousness and falling down
    • A return to being awake and alert happens within a minute or so
    • Also called passing out or blacking out
    • The medical name for fainting is syncope
    • This handout can help you prevent the most common types of fainting

    Health Information

    Simple Fainting Basics

    • Age of Onset. Simple fainting is mostly from standing too long in one place. It happens in over 20% of healthy teens. Simple fainting is rare for children under age 6. It is not common before age 10.
    • Causes. In healthy teens, almost all are simple, benign fainting. Less than 1% have a serious medical cause. In older adults, serious causes are much more common.
    • Risk Factors for Having a Simple Faint. Dehydration, fasting, hot weather, lack of sleep, recent illness. All of these increase the risk of a sudden drop in blood flow to the brain.

    Simple Fainting (Benign Fainting): Types

    • Standing too long in one place before fainting is the most common type. Happens at church, weddings or at events when standing a long time. More common if one keeps the knees “locked”. This pools the blood in the leg veins. Any person who stands long enough in one place will faint.
    • Standing up quickly (often after lying down) before fainting is a less common cause. Often this just causes a person to feel dizzy for a short time. More common in the morning after not eating or drinking during the night.
    • Sudden stressful feelings before fainting. Seeing a badly injured person or pet can trigger fainting. Other examples are seeing someone vomit, bleed or pass a stool. Also, stressful events such as speaking or performing in public can cause fainting.
    • Sudden physical pain before fainting. Getting a shot or having stiches taken out can also trigger fainting. The stress of the event may cause the fainting rather than the pain itself.

    Fainting: How to Diagnose the Cause

    • Fainting has many causes. Most are harmless or even normal. A few of them are serious.
    • Any child with fainting needs a complete exam by their doctor.
    • If your child has not been seen about their fainting, make an appointment.

    Care Advice

    1. Overview:
      • Fainting is common and happens in 20% of teens.
      • Standing too long in one place is the most common cause. Reason: blood pools in the veins in the legs.
      • Standing up quickly after lying down can also cause anyone to feel dizzy. If your child doesn’t sit down when this happens, they may faint.
      • These are normal types of fainting.
      • Simple fainting doesn’t cause any long-term problems.
      • Here is some care advice that should help.
    2. When Dizzy, Lie Down or Sit Down Quickly:
      • Most fainting can be prevented.
      • Learn the early warning signs for fainting. They are feeling dizzy, blurry vision, and nausea.
      • If you feel these warning signs, lie down right away. Reason: This will increase blood flow to the brain.
      • If you can only sit, put your head down by your knees.
      • You only have 5 - 10 seconds to prevent fainting and falling down.
      • Don’t be embarrassed. Lie down quickly no matter where you are. Better to do that than faint. Falling down could also cause a face or head injury.
      • Caution: Don’t get up too soon or you might faint. Stay down until you feel steady.
    3. Change Positions Slowly:
      • When getting out of bed, sit on the edge for a few minutes before standing.
      • If you feel dizzy, lie down again.
      • If getting out of a hot tub or bath, go very slowly.
    4. Move Your Leg Muscles:
      • If long standing in one place is needed, tighten and relax your leg muscles. Do this a few times each minute. This will pump the blood back to your heart. Caution: never stand with your knees locked.
      • Shift positions. Transfer your weight to one leg, then the other.
      • For long sitting in one place, move your feet and legs every few minutes.
      • For the future, exercise more and build up your leg muscles.
    5. Drink Extra Water:
      • If you tend to faint, extra water is key. Reason: stay well hydrated and improve blood flow.
      • Drink extra fluids every day. Your goal is 8 cups (2 liters) per day.
      • You will need more during sports or hot weather.
      • Also add some salty foods to your diet. Too little salt in your diet, like too much, is not healthy. It can cause low blood pressure.
      • Don’t skip meals.
    6. What to Expect After a Faint:
      • Most children with a simple faint are alert within 1 minute.
      • They feel normal after lying down for 10 minutes and drinking some water.
      • They then can stand without feeling dizzy.

    Call Your Doctor If

    • Fainting happens again and you don’t know why
    • Fainting happens during exercise
    • Fainting becomes a frequent problem
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • You have other questions or concerns


    Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP