I fainted again for the second time. You can read about my first experience here. When it first happened almost 2 years ago, I was totally freaked out because I’d never fainted before in my life and was terrified that something was seriously wrong with me. My doctors ran tons of tests, including MRI, EEG, Holter Monitor, EKG, etc., but didn’t find anything wrong. They thought I may have been dehydrated. I didn’t think I’d gone that long without water, but now, to avoid fainting, I carry a reusable water bottle everywhere I go.
Then, I was sitting at a tall restaurant table at one of my favorite San Fernando Valley restaurants and had just started to dive into a fabulous seafood dinner. Suddenly, I felt like I was going to pass out. (Disclaimer – It had nothing to do with the food because it’s always wonderful) Like an idiot, I decided to drink some water to avoid fainting but I was wrong. Next thing I knew I woke up under the table . . . again. I must have a thing for passing out at dinner tables.
I remember before it happened trying to tell Doug I thought I was going to pass out. He said he grabbed me, but then I jerked away and he couldn’t hang on. Thankfully, I didn’t break my neck. Instead, I did a major number on my right foot. I sprained the “you know what” out of it and it hurt like hell.
The owner of the restaurant wanted to call 911 but Doug wouldn’t let him. Apparently, he thought doing a header off a high chair on my head and mangling my foot didn’t warrant an ambulance. (Men can be idiots) He and an 80-year-old waitress helped me hobble to the car.
I ended up crawling around for a few days until he bought me a set of crutches. I hated being an invalid and my weekend was ruined. Luckily, after getting it X-rayed, I was told my foot wasn’t broken. (a year later, it still twinges)
I know now that my fainting (syncope) was caused by a vasovagal response. My sister has the same problem and faints at the sight of blood. She’s passed out many times and now, I guess, it’s my turn. Vasovageling (my term) is not a dangerous condition in itself unless you fall and hurt yourself. The tendency toward it sometimes starts to show after the age of 50. However, you always want to avoid fainting and hurting yourself if at all possible.
What causes us to faint?
Fainting is caused by a drop in blood pressure. Have you ever sat on the pot, trying to crank out a stubborn number 2 and suddenly felt hot or weird? (sorry about the visual) It was probably because your blood pressure was dropping. If you aren’t careful, you could land butt side up on the floor. Not a pretty picture.
Fear or panic will also cause you to faint, like in my sister’s case. If my sister or Doug need a shot, they both have to be lying down to avoid fainting.
Other causes of fainting include standing up for too long, becoming overheated, drinking alcohol when you’re dehydrated, or going too long without eating.
Both times I fainted I was standing for a long time on a warm day, had a little wine, waited too long to eat, and didn’t drink enough water.
I never want this to happen to me again or to any of you, so I did some research on how to prevent fainting and came up with . . .
The 12 best ways to avoid fainting in public:
- Always drink water throughout the day. Professor Richard Sutton, Professor of Cardiology suggests drinking 4 liters a day. That sounds like you have to suck up a lake but staying hydrated is essential.
- Eat MORE salt. We’re always told to eat less salt, but if you faint easily you need more of it. Salt helps to hold water inside your body. Don’t feel guilty about sprinkling a little extra salt on your food.
- Don’t drink alcohol outside your home unless you’re at a friend’s house or in a protected environment. If you’re standing at a cocktail party table drinking, you may find yourself swooning. Take it from me, passing out in public is embarrassing as hell. And remember, you don’t want to hurt yourself. The phrase, “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” has new meaning for me.
- Sleep with your head raised up slightly and your feet elevated. When you wake up, Dr. Sutton suggests you ask someone to bring you a biscuit and tea. He’s English, can’t you tell? I wouldn’t mind having someone bring me a biscuit and tea in bed. Unfortunately, Doug’s usually snoring when I wake up. Hmm . . . maybe I need a houseboy.
- Eat small and frequent meals. If you vasovagal, like me, don’t cut out snacks. You don’t want your blood sugar levels to drop. Snack on healthy food instead of junk.
- Do steady cardiovascular exercise every day. Walking or riding a stationary bike is recommended. To avoid fainting don’t do exercises that cause you to stop and start like interval training.
- Wear support stockings if you have to stand up for a long time. You want to keep the blood in your legs circulating. Better yet, avoid standing in long lines. If you have to, bring a small camp chair.
- Don’t lift objects that are too heavy. When you’re strength training, use light weights with more reps rather than heavy dumb bells.
- Be careful when you’re in a steam room, sauna, hot car or other hot location. I remember arriving at the Island of Saint Vincent in the Grenadines several years ago. It was insanely hot and humid. I was sitting at the bar at the marina waiting for our rented sailboat to be ready, feeling like I was going to die. I thought I’d caught Dengue fever right out the gate. Once we were on the water, I was fine. Coming from Southern California, I wasn’t used to the extreme humidity of the Caribbean and it took me a while to adjust. My feet also swelled up the first couple days.
- Don’t sit on tall chairs at bars or restaurants. If possible, sit in a booth surrounded by people who will catch you.
- If you feel like you’re going to pass out, hit the floor immediately. Don’t worry about being embarrassed. Sit with your head between your legs or lie on the floor with your feet elevated. If you hesitate, for even a second, you may end up like I did; a face on the barroom floor limping along like Hopalong Cassidy.
- If you start feeling like you can’t breathe, have chest pain, blurry vision, headache, or you’ve never fainted before, see a doctor immediately. Have a complete medical workup with a cardiologist and neurologist. Don’t take any chances because your condition may be more serious.
Just a side note about men as nurses.
Doug’s been a pretty good nurse during this ordeal, but he was freaked out by the whole experience. After we arrived home from the restaurant and he was helping me up the stairs to our house a big moth flew into his ear. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t get it out. The monster was flapping like crazy inside his ear canal. Crazed, he dumped me off at the house, turned around and took himself to the ER, leaving me to literally crawl on the floor to the bed.
I do a header off a tall chair spraining my foot and he flips out because a moth is in his ear? $100 later, the doctor in the ER pulled it out. It was huge and had gone way inside of his ear canal. The doctor actually had to kill it in order to get it out. He said he’d never seen anything like it. Apparently, Doug had been attacked by Mothra.
Have you ever fainted? Do you have any tips to avoid fainting you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below.