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  • Fainting is sudden brief loss of consciousness with falling down
  • A return to being awake and alert happens within 1 minute
  • Also called passing out or blacking out

Fainting Basics

  • Fainting is a brief loss of consciousness. Normal awareness returns in less than 1 minute if the person is allowed to lie down.
  • If standing, the person falls to the ground.
  • If sitting, the person slumps over.
  • The medical name for fainting is syncope.
  • Fainting happens in 15% of healthy teens. Simple fainting doesn't occur before age 6. It is not common before age 10.
  • Causes: in teens, 98% is simple fainting. Less than 1% have heart problems. In older adults, serious causes are much more common.
  • Cause of Simple Fainting: decreased blood flow to the brain.
  • Risk Factors: mild dehydration, fasting, hot weather, lack of sleep, recent illness, change in altitude.
  • Most fainting is harmless. There is a risk of a head or face injury from sudden falling.

Simple Fainting (Benign Fainting): Types

  • Standing too long in one place before fainting is the most common type. The medical name is orthostatic or postural syncope. Happens at church, graduations, 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. A 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. This is called vasovagal syncope. 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 such as getting a shot or a blood test. Having slivers or stiches taken out can also trigger fainting. The stress of the event may cause the fainting rather than the pain itself.

Warning Signs For Simple Fainting

  • Dizziness (light-headed), blurred vision, nausea, sweating, feeling cold.
  • These last for 5 to 10 seconds before passing out.
  • The person may look pale just before passing out.

Serious Causes of Fainting

  • Cardiac syncope. Any fainting that happens during exercise needs a heart work-up. This cause is rare in children.
  • Blood loss - large amount or bleeding inside the body
  • Concussion or head injury
  • Sudden drop in blood sugar. Mainly happens in people with diabetes.
  • Poisoning
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Seizure

When To Call

Call 911 Now

  • Still passed out or hard to wake up after 2 minutes
  • Caused by choking on something
  • Fainted suddenly after medicine, allergic food or bee sting
  • Trouble breathing and not a breath-holding spell
  • Bleeding large amount
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Go to ER Now

  • Talking or acting confused for more than 5 minutes
  • Feels too dizzy to stand after drinking fluids
  • Fainted during exercise
  • Heart is beating too fast
  • Chest Pain
  • Muscle jerking or shaking during fainting

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Followed a head injury
  • Followed a belly injury
  • First fainting spell
  • Passed out for more than 1 minute after laying down
  • Dehydration suspected. No urine in more than 8 hours, dark urine, and very dry mouth.
  • Fainted 2 times in one day
  • Age less than 10 years
  • Cause of fainting is unknown. Not if cause is long standing, sudden standing, pain or stressful event.
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • Simple fainting from long standing, sudden standing or pain is a frequent problem
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Simple fainting and now alert and feels fine
  • Prevent Simple Fainting

Care Advice

Fainting Treatment

What You Should Know About Simple Fainting:

  • Fainting is common and happens in 15% of teens.
  • Standing too long in one place is the most common cause of fainting. It's caused by blood pooling in the legs.
  • Standing up quickly after lying down can cause anyone to feel dizzy. If your child doesn't sit down when this happens, he 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.

Lie Down:

  • Lie down flat with the feet up for 10 minutes.
  • Reason: this will increase blood flow to the brain. Simple fainting is due to a sudden drop in blood flow to the brain.
  • Caution: getting up too soon can cause your child to faint again.

Drink Some Water:

  • Give your child a large glass of water. Reason: to increase blood volume.
  • Do this before he stands up again.
  • Offer fruit juice if your child hasn't eaten breakfast yet. Reason: also raises blood sugar.
  • In hot weather, drink extra water to stay hydrated.

Ease Stress:

  • If fainting was due to stress or fear, help your child talk about what happened.
  • Talk about what scared them.
  • Try to calm your child with a soothing voice.
  • Comfort them. Tell them they are safe and you will protect them.

What to Expect:

  • Most children with a simple faint are alert within 2 minutes.
  • They feel normal after lying down for 10 minutes.
  • They are able to stand without feeling dizzy.

Call Your Doctor If:

  • Still feeling faint or dizzy after 15 minutes
  • Passes out again on the same day
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

Prevent Simple Fainting

When Dizzy, Lie Down or Sit Down:

  • 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.
  • If you can only sit, put your head down by your knees.
  • You only have 5 - 10 seconds to prevent fainting and falling down.

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.
  • For long sitting in one place, move your feet and legs every few minutes.
  • 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.

Extra Water and Salty Foods:

  • If you tend to faint, extra water and salt are key.
  • Drink extra fluids every day. Your goal is 8 cups (2 liters) per day. You may need more during sports or hot weather.
  • Add some salty foods to your diet. Too little salt in your diet also isn't healthy. It can cause low blood pressure.

Call Your Doctor If:

  • Fainting is a frequent problem
  • You have other questions or concerns


Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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