Fainting is a loss of consciousness caused when the blood supply to the brain is momentarily interrupted. While typically sudden and alarming, it usually is not harmful (unless the person suffers fainting-related injuries), and consciousness is typically regained quickly. However, it may be indicative of underlying health conditions, such as low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, hypoglycemia or stress, so the person should seek follow-up medical attention.

  • If someone faints or appears to be fainting, call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Assist the person by lowering him or her to the ground or other flat surface, while facing up in a horizontal position.
  • Check for breathing and injuries.
  • Rule out seizure, shock and stroke.
  • If there are no injuries, elevate the legs up to a foot off the ground.
  • Loosen any restrictive clothing.
  • Do not give the person anything to eat or drink.

Consult your doctor if fainting is associated with:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Trouble talking
  • Fainting upon turning the head
  • Fainting more than once in a month

If you feel faint, either lie down or sit down immediately. If you sit down, bend forward with your head between your knees, to help get the blood flowing to your brain. Wait until you feel better before trying to stand up. If someone else faints, position the person on his or her back and elevate the legs above the heart, if possible. Check for signs of breathing. Loosen belts or restrictive clothing. If the person doesn’t regain consciousness within a minute, call 911.

Anyone who thinks they're having a medical emergency should not hesitate to seek care. Federal law ensures that anyone who comes to the emergency department is treated and stabilized, and that their insurance provides coverage based on symptoms, not a final diagnosis. 

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