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Discharge Instructions for Syncope in Adults (Fainting)

Syncope, also known as fainting, is the sudden loss of consciousness. It will be treated based on what the cause is. You may need lifestyle changes and medicines.

Steps to Take

Home Care

If you know your triggers, try to avoid them. Some common ones are standing too long, dehydration, and emotional distress. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to manage other problems that may have caused you to faint. Other steps that may help are:

  • Drink plenty of water and do not skip meals.
  • Get up slowly from a lying or seated position.
  • If your doctor tells you to, wear special compression stockings to help with blood flow.

If needed, keep track of symptoms in a journal. Share it with your doctor. This may help guide a plan to treat or avoid fainting.

If you feel any warning signs, such as lightheadedness, sit or lie down right away. This will stop you from getting hurt from falling. Lie down or sit with your head between your knees until you feel better. You may feel tired for a few minutes to a few hours.

Diet

If fainting was related to your diet, your doctor may make some changes. You may need to:

  • Eat frequent smaller meals, equally spaced during the day.
  • Make well-balanced meal plans.
  • Follow specific nutrition steps if you have a health problem.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the day.

Physical Activity

Talk to your doctor about when you can resume activity.

These movements may help prevent fainting. You should ask your doctor before trying them. You can bring on fainting if you do them wrong.

  • Cross your legs while tensing the muscles of the legs, belly, and buttocks.
  • Forcefully squeeze a rubber ball or any other object as hard as possible in your dominant hand.
  • Grip one hand with the other while tensing both arms and raising your elbows a bit.

Ask your doctor when you will be able to return to work and drive.

Medications

Your doctor may give medicine based on the cause. Current medicine may also need to be changed or adjusted. If you are taking medicine:

  • Take the medicine as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could happen. Tell your doctor if you have any.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Do not share your prescription medicine with anyone.
  • Medicines can be harmful when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one, including over the counter products and supplements.

Follow-up

Your doctor may advise further testing of your nervous system and heart for causes. It is important to go to all appointments.

Problems to Look Out For

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Problems staying standing or sitting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Rapid, uneven heartbeat, or chest pain

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Alberta Health
http://www.health.alberta.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Benditt D, Goldstein M. Fainting. Circulation. 2002;106(9):1048-1050.

Chen LY, Benditt DG, Shen WK. Management of syncope in adults: an update. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2008;83(11):1280-1293.

Mills PB, Fung CK, Travlos A, Krassioukov A. Nonpharmacologic management of orthostatic hypotension: A systematic review. Arch Phys Med Rehab. 2015;96(20):366-375.

NINDS syncope information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/all-disorders/syncope-information-page. Accessed September 20, 2020.

Syncope (fainting). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofArrhythmia/Syncope-Fainting_UCM_430006_Article.jsp#.V9cMPk2FPIU. Accessed September 20, 2020.

Syncope—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed . Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116050/Syncope-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed September 20, 2020.

3/24/2015 EBSCO DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/condition/orthostatic-hypotension-and-orthostatic-syncope.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD