Did you know that fainting (syncope) may suggest an underlying medical problem?

Watching a sitcom character faint is often amusing. But in real life, fainting (also known as syncope) isn’t a laughing matter as it may suggest an underlying medical problem.

Dr Shah Mitesh and Dr Ian Phoon, Family Physicians at the Geylang and Pasir Ris Polyclinics respectively, ​​SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP), members of the SingHealth​ group, provide insight into what causes fainting, what to do if a loved one faints, and precautionary steps to take if you suddenly start to feel faint.

But first things first: What is the proper course of action when you witness someone losing consciousness?

What should I do if I see someone faint?

Contrary to what you’ve seen on the television or in movies, there’s no need to slap or shake the person or splash water on them. Once the brain receives sufficient nutrients, the person will automatically regain consciousness.

The best way you can provide assistance would be to familiarise yourself with CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) or the use of the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) – a portable electrical device that detects dangerous heart rhythms and delivers a current to “shock” the heart back into normal rhythm if there’s a need to.

In CPR, remember the acronym D-R-S-A-B-C:

D (Danger) – Ensure the area is safe for yourself and the person requiring help.

R (Response) – Check for a response from the person you’re helping (e.g. ask “What’s your name?” and “Are you ok?”) If there’s no response, call for help immediately. If there’s a response, help to make the person more comfortable.

S (Shout for help) – Shout for help or ask someone to call 995 for an ambulance.

A (Airway) – Check the person’s airway to ensure there’s no blockage.

B (Breathing) – Check for breathing. If breathing is not normal, begin CPR. If breathing is normal, continue to monitor breathing and check for injuries.

C (Circulation) – Check for the pulse. Usually, if there's no breathing, it can be assumed that there's also no pulse, and CPR should begin: 30 chest compressions for every 2 breaths. Perform CPR until help arrives or the person recovers.

Other ways to help someone that has fainted include:

  • Allow the person to lie down and rest. Do not make them sit up immediately.
  • Turn the person to one side to prevent the tongue or mouth secretions from obstructing the airway.
  • Take note if the person exhibits any unusual jerking motion.
  • Continue to monitor the person until the ambulance arrives, or till the person wakes up spontaneously.

Read on to find out ​how​​ syncope occurs​.​

Ref: O17​