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Fainting: Why Do We Faint and How Do We Prevent Fainting?

Reviewed by
Date published
19/09/2021
Date last updated
21/09/2021
Length of read
3 Minutes

Although fainting isn’t generally a sign of anything serious, it can be a daunting experience for those involved if they’re unaware of how to handle the situation. Here’s all you need to know about fainting – from why we do it and how we can prevent it.

What Is Fainting?

The medical term for fainting is “syncope” and refers to a sudden and brief loss of consciousness and posture, resulting in someone passing out for a short period of time – usually around 20 seconds to a minute. Fainting is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain and isn’t usually a sign of anything serious, however, you should see your GP if it happens to you regularly.

What Causes Fainting?

Though there are many different reasons as to why someone might faint (dependant on the individual and their lifestyle), common causes include-

  • Not eating or drinking enough
  • Heart problems
  • Standing up too quickly (which could be a sign of low blood pressure)
  • Being too hot
  • Taking drugs
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Being in severe pain
  • Being very angry or upset

Are There Other Symptoms Of Fainting?

Fainting occurs very suddenly. However, it can often be accompanied by other symptoms, too. These can include dizziness, feeling sick, developing slurred speech, having cold skin, sweating and experiencing changes to vision.

How Do We Prevent Fainting?

Here are a few ways you can help reduce your risk of fainting and passing out – these can be especially helpful steps to follow for those who are prone to fainting, or who suffer from conditions that make fainting more likely.

  • Make sure you drink enough water every day so that you don’t become dehydrated
  • Avoid skipping meals and be sure to eat regular, well-balanced meals
  • Avoid spending a lot of time in hot weather conditions if you’re prone to fainting
  • Be sure to take any medications that have been prescribed to you – this is especially important for those taking medication for cardiovascular issues or diabetes
  • If a medication is making you feel lightheaded or dizzy, speak to your doctor – they may be able to prescribe an alternative for you
  • Avoid locking your knees if you have to stand in one place for a long time – if you can, regularly shake your legs out and pace around
  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids before giving blood or having an injection, as well as eating a meal a few hours before – avoid looking at the needle and ensure you are lying down while having the injection
  • If you’re someone who is prone to suffering from anxiety, try to find a coping strategy that works best for you – this may include talk therapy, meditation or exercising.

What Do I Do If I Feel Like I’m About To Faint?

Here are some different steps to remember for when you feel like you’re about to faint, to help prevent you from losing consciousness.

Lie down

If you’re able to do so, lie down with your legs in the air – this can help restore the blood flow to the brain.

If you can’t lie down, sit down

If you’re unable to lie down, sit down and put your head between your knees.

Tense your arms

By making a tight fist and tensing your arms, you can help raise your blood pressure.

Take deep breaths and count to 10

If you feel like you’re about to faint due to anxiety, take deep breaths in and out and slowly count to ten to try and calm yourself down.

Cross your legs

Another way to help raise your blood pressure is to cross your legs and press them together tightly.

Don’t get up until you’re feeling better

Standing up too quickly can cause further issues, so whether you’re laying down or sitting, wait until you’re feeling better before slowly standing up.

Slowly sip water

You may be feeling lightheaded due to being dehydrated, in which case you can slowly sip water to hydrate yourself again.

Eat something if hungry

If you’ve barely eaten all day, you may be feeling like you’re about to faint due to lack of nutrition and food – eat something and you may start to feel better.

What Can I Do If Somebody Else Faints?

If somebody near you looks like they’re about to faint, try to remember the above steps to guide them through to help them avoid passing out, remembering to remove any harmful or heavy objects surrounding them that may fall on. If a person near you does end up fainting, you’ll need to keep them laying on their back, make sure they’re not injured and check their breathing. If they are injured, aren’t breathing or don’t wake up after one minute, you’ll need to call for emergency services.