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Vanderbilt Autonomic Dysfunction Center

Near-Fainting

The first thing I will say about this is that the best way to avoid fainting is not to get yourself into situations that are likely to make you light-headed. This means avoiding super hot showers and trying to limit involvement in situations where sitting is socially unacceptable.

 

Some of the things I have learned about fainting include:

  • Do not lock your knees. This is the worst thing you can do. Shift your weight. This keeps the muscles in your legs working and pumps the blood back up to your heart. I am a big fan of standing on my toes and rocking back and forth when I feel light-headed.
  • Take deep breaths. I’m not sure why this helps, but it does.
  • If you are in the shower, which I commonly am when I feel light-headed, either turn off the water or turn the water to cold. A blast of cold water may be unpleasant, but it usually keeps me from getting more light-headed.
  • If you are outside in the heat, go indoors. If that is not possible, move to the shade and take off as many layers of extra clothing as possible. Getting out of the heat can do wonders. Situations that force you to be outdoors with no access to relief from the heat (e.g. large summer concerts) should be avoided.
  • Take note of symptoms that signal you are going to get light-headed. I usually feel a rush of heat a minute or two before I am close to passing out. This gives me time to get somewhere I can sit or lie down before I actually pass out. Listen to your body. If you think you are going to faint, you need to act quickly to get somewhere you can be horizontal. Being stubborn is not going to help.
  • Sit down. Even if you are in a place where it is inappropriate, it is better to sit down than to pass out. If you absolutely cannot sit down, cross your legs and flex them or squat.
  • Pretend to tie your shoes or rub a sore spot on your foot in order to buy yourself a few moments when you don’t have to be upright.
  • If you get to a place where you can sit or lie down, put your head below the level of your heart. This can mean sitting in a chair and putting your head between your knees or lying down and propping up your feet. Stay like this for a while; if you try and get up again too quickly it will likely happen again.
  • When you feel a little better, drink water. Quickly drinking a glass or two of water usually helps me feel better fast. Eating may also help.

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