Stay conscious

November 22, 2019

Imagine that you are working out at the gym with a close friend. You are both hitting the weights, with your friend benching over and you are spotting, making sure that the weight does not fall on your friend’s head (What a good friend you are!). After you congratulate him for maxing out at 200 pounds, he quickly stands up to celebrate and suddenly faints.

Fainting often occurs when the brain temporarily has a diminished blood supply, which causes a loss of consciousness. The cause can range from simply no known medical cause to severe heart disorders. Providers often assume the worst and treat it as a medical emergency. Additionally, there can also be other symptoms that precede fainting, including lightheadedness, nausea, dizziness and vomiting.

If you or someone around you begins to feel faint, the best course of action for treatment is to return blood flow to the brain as quickly as possible. This often includes laying down. If the person feeling faint insists on sitting down, then ask them to tuck their head between their legs. Both of these techniques are used to increase blood flow to the brain. If, however, someone is feeling dizzy or light-headed right next to you, then try to catch them or provide a path for them to fall that is clear of obstacles. If an individual hits their head while fainting, then there is a higher chance that they will have other complications.

  In the case of your friend, fainting is likely caused by two factors: him working out and him quickly standing up. Have you ever noticed when you are lying down and then quickly stand up, you can feel lightheaded? This is an intensified extreme case of that. If your friend does not regain consciousness in about a minute, call 911. 

Contrary to popular belief, you should not sit somebody up if they have fainted. Even if someone regains consciousness, politely ask them to continue to lie down for a few more minutes. What should be done, however, is to loosen any restrictive clothing, such as a belt and tie, and elevate the legs about a foot off the ground. This is to facilitate blood flow throughout the body and increase the chances that blood returns to the head. As previously mentioned, falling from fainting can cause bruising or bleeding. To control bruises, use an ice pack if available to reduce swelling. Other items can be substituted for an ice pack, such as a bag of frozen vegetables. To control bleeding, use direct pressure. However, be very careful when handling blood and other fluids from others! Blood can transfer many diseases, and if you are unsure about what diseases a person carries, it is essential to not expose yourself to their bodily fluids.

Unless a friend or relative has a disorder or disease that is associated with excessive fainting, then you are, oftentimes, not exposed to it often. However, knowing what steps to take if the situation ever arises is essential to providing ideal treatment. Just like in the case of your friend, fainting can occur within a moment’s notice with absolutely no warning.

(Note: These articles are good-faith attempts to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means to be taken as universal. This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This article is not written on behalf of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) and is not affiliated with BEMCo in any manner.)

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