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What to do if someone you know passes out

Fainting, otherwise referred to as syncope, is the sudden and temporary loss of consciousness – which usually occurs due to low blood pressure (hypotension) or a lack of oxygen reaching the brain.

While fainting isn’t usually serious, it can sometimes indicate an underlying medical issue. If someone you know or close by passes out or faints, you should seek immediate medical assistance straight away.

Do you know what to do if someone you know passes out?

What causes fainting?

A variety of factors can cause fainting, including:

Hyperventilation
Hyperventilation (breathing at a rapid pace) causes you to take in too much oxygen at once, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. This narrows your blood vessels and slows blood flow to your brain, which can cause you to faint.

Low blood sugar
A number of situations may cause you to have low blood sugar levels – such as going a long time without food, crash dieting or increasing exercise without adjusting your sugar intake. Those with diabetes are also at risk; too much insulin or not eating enough can cause a diabetic to faint.

Anemia
A condition caused by a lack of healthy red blood cells, anemia can also cause fainting. This is primarily because anemia results in fewer red blood cells in your body than is normal, which results in a reduced supply of oxygen circulating to the brain. While the most common symptom is tiredness, sufferers can also feel dizzy, which can lead them to faint.

Emotional stress
Emotional stress can also cause someone to faint. This may include shock, a sudden fright, or ongoing anxiety.

Physical triggers
Dehydration from strenuous exercise or exposure to heat, going without food, or standing for long periods of time without rest can also cause you to faint.

Signs and symptoms of fainting

Depending on what has caused you to faint, you may experience:
● Dizziness
● Blurred vision
● Nausea
● Light-headedness
● Pale skin
● Numbness in the fingers and toes

What to do when someone passes out

  1. If someone is near you and you see them passing out, you should attempt to get them to the ground as safely as possible, take extra care to support their head, and position them on their back.
  2. If they’re still breathing, raise their leg about 12 inches (if possible). It may also help to loosen any constrictive clothing – such as belts or collars.
  3. Begin CPR, if the person isn’t breathing or doesn’t regain consciousness within 30 seconds.
    a. If you’re untrained in CPR, and you’d like to know how to perform basic CPR, see the Australian Resuscitation Council’s guidelines for CPR.
  4. Call 000 immediately, and continue CPR until medical professionals arrive or until the person begins to breathe.

Important: if someone has a full bladder and they pass out, it’s not abnormal for them to experience involuntary urination. In this instance, talk to them and try to keep them calm. If there is a spare piece of clothing, help to cover their groin area.

If the person regains consciousness, advise them to stay seated or lie down, and raise and support their legs. For a woman who is pregnant, place a cushion or padding under their right buttock.