A blackout (commonly called fainting) is a brief period when you do not know what is going on around you. This could also be because you lost your memory of what just happened.
Fainting may be harmless, and you may regain your memory almost immediately. However, if you had a head injury or too much alcohol before a blackout, you need to visit your healthcare provider immediately. Someone who faints mid-step may lose their step and fall, help them lie down.
Fainting can be caused by conditions that reduce the amount of blood that gets to your brain. Some may be mild, and others may be life-threatening. They include:
- When you drink too much alcohol, that intoxicates you.
- When you receive a heavy blow to your head or have a fall, that causes a brain injury.
- If you have certain medical illnesses that affect your heart, such as abnormal heartbeats or a heart attack.
- Illnesses that affect your brain, such as epilepsy.
- When you are in severe pain or emotional distress.
- Some medications may also make you weak and faint.
Although a blackout is not always a cause for alarm, it may point to other health conditions. You need to visit the nearest healthcare provider to you if you experience any of the following:
- If you faint often. Like more than once in a month.
- If you experienced chest pain before or after a fainting episode.
- When you notice your breathing is not normal after a blackout episode.
- If you are finding it difficult to remember things.
- If you have epilepsy with blackouts.
- If you are not aware of when you start to pee or empty your bowels.
You can prevent frequent fainting episodes by reducing your risk, including eating meals more regularly, drinking enough water (especially when it is hot) and keeping physically active to reduce your stress. You may be able to avoid fainting if you feel it coming by lying down or sitting in a comfortable position.
If you have a condition that increases your tendency to faint, you should follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for treatment very well. You can treat conditions such as uncontrolled blood sugar, heart disease, anxiety, and epilepsy, and thereby reducing your risk of fainting.
If someone around you faints, these are some tips to help them:
- Make them lie down on their side with their knees up, especially if you notice saliva or other fluids coming from their mouth; this will prevent choking.
- Try to loosen all their tight clothing and keep them in a well-ventilated environment.
- If they have epilepsy, do not try to restrain them or put things in their mouth. Help them clear all dangerous objects around them and put them on their side after the episode.
- Sometimes, you may feel dizzy or light-headed before a blackout. Sit or lie down and draw your knees to your chest to prevent a blackout.
- If you have not had anything to eat that day, you could try a sugary snack to keep you from fainting.
- Your treatment largely depends on what caused your blackout. Your healthcare provider will recommend the necessary treatment for you.
- People with blood flow problems may receive corticosteroids to help reduce the frequency of blackouts.
- In patients with blackouts caused by stress and mental illness, behavioural therapy is beneficial.
- Your healthcare provider may also recommend some changes to your lifestyle, such as reducing your alcohol intake.
Fainting/ blackouts are generally not severe, and you are likely to recover quickly. You may notice some signs before it happens. Try to sit or lie down to prevent it. If your loved one faints beside you, try to help them stay safe. Check to be sure they are still breathing frequently. If they become unconscious for longer than 10 minutes or have difficulty breathing, you may take them to the healthcare provider in the absence of an ambulance.