Fainting or Syncope:

Description:

In order for the brain to function properly it relies on oxygen being carried to the blood. If the blood flow is reduced temporarily then the brains defence mechanism kicks in and takes available blood and oxygen from other parts of the body at the expense of other organs.

 

Breathing rate increases (hyperventilation) as does the heart rate as it tries to pump blood around the body. This increased heart rate lowers the blood pressure (hypotension); the combination of both can lead to temporarily loss of consciousness but at the least can make a patient feel cold, sweaty and dizzy. The onset is usually sudden and other symptoms may include blurred vision.

 

Causes:

Postural Syncope:

Occasionally from sitting but usually whilst standing for prolonged periods or when getting up. The blood pools in the big veins in the lower limbs, and it is more difficult to get it back to the heart.

 

Vasovagal:

  • Reaction to pain.
  • Emotional stress or fright.
  • Hot stuffy environments.

 

Situational Syncope:

Occurs when a bodily function or activity places a sudden strain on the autonomic nervous system:

  • Coughing.
  • Sneezing.
  • Swallowing.
  • Laughing.
  • Passing stools.
  • Exercising.

 

Carotid Sinus Syndrome:

The carotid sinus as part of the carotid artery is located in the neck and is the main artery to the brain. Physical stimulation can affect the carotid sinus such as:

  • Turning the head to one side.
  • Wearing a tight collar.
  • Sometimes shaving in the area of the carotid sinus.

 

Cardiac Origin:

Transient decreases in the cardiac output as a result of severe bradycardia (slow pulse), which reduces cardiac output or a tachycardia (fast pulse).

 

Signs & Symptoms:

During fainting, one or more of the following signs may be present:

  • Slow pulse increasing with recovery.
  • Cold, clammy skin.
  • Pale in colour.
  • Reduce level of consciousness (AVPU).

 

Treatment:

  • Loosen any tight clothing.
  • Lie the patient down on the floor before they fall.
  • Raise their legs (raises blood pressure by easing the flow of blood from the major vessels in the lower legs to the heart.
  • Patient may be quick to recover however let them stay lying down until they feel they are able to sit up slowly. If they then still feel faint lie them back down.
  • Ask the patient if this is their first faint (fainting is rare) if however they are having repeated episodes of fainting advise visit to GP.

 

CAUTION:

  • If the patient does not regain consciousness quickly, open airway and check for normal breathing. If patient is breathing normally, place them in the recovery position with a good airway. Then dial 999.
  • If the patient is not breathing normally or in doubt dial 999.

 

 

We hope you find this article useful. This is one in an alphabetical series of articles addressing various symptoms and their first aid treatments. If you would like more information on related resuscitation and first aid training, please get in touch.

 

You might also be interested in our blog. In this post Linda Hart gives us a guide to seizures and related first aid.

 

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