Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Blurred vision

Blurred vision
beginning of content

Fainting

6-minute read

If you don’t know whether someone is fainting or is having a serious incident like a cardiac arrest, follow DRSABCD.

On this page


What is fainting?

Fainting is a period of temporary loss of consciousness that happens when the blood flow to the brain is reduced.

When should I call an ambulance?

People normally recover quickly after fainting. You should seek medical attention after a faint if you:

  • injured yourself — especially if you hit your head
  • faint often
  • fainted for the first time after you've turned 40
  • are pregnant
  • have diabetes or heart disease, or if you had chest pains or palpitations before you fainted
  • if you lost bladder or bowel control
  • if it took longer than a few minutes for you to regain consciousness

Back to top


What are the symptoms of fainting?

Before fainting, it’s common to experience some of the following:

  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • sweating
  • changes to your breathing, such as breathing faster and deeply
  • altered vision, such as blurring and seeing spots or lights
  • nausea

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use our collapse and fainting Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

Back to top


What causes fainting?

There are a number of things that can cause you to faint, including:

  • changes to your blood pressure, especially when you stand up
  • dehydration
  • anaemia
  • some medicines
  • diabetes
  • a nervous system problem
  • a heart problem
  • a seizure

In some people, fainting is caused by a temporary glitch in the autonomic nervous system that regulates your heart rate and blood pressure. This can be triggered by:

  • experiencing high levels of pain
  • exposure to sights you find unpleasant, such as the sight of blood
  • high levels of anxiety
  • standing up for long periods of time
  • coughing, sneezing or laughing
  • straining on the toilet
  • heat exposure

Back to top


How is fainting treated?

If you see someone faint, loosen any tight clothing and get them some fresh air.

If they are unconscious, follow DRSABCD.

DRSABCD ACTION PLAN
Letter Representing What to do
D Danger Ensure that the patient and everyone in the area is safe. Do not put yourself or others at risk. Remove the danger or the patient.
R Response Look for a response from the patient — loudly ask their name, squeeze their shoulder.
S Send for help If there is no response, phone triple zero (000) or ask another person to call. Do not leave the patient.
A Airway Check their mouth and throat is clear. Remove any obvious blockages in the mouth or nose, such as vomit, blood, food or loose teeth, then gently tilt their head back and lift their chin.
B Breathing Check if the person is breathing abnormally or not breathing at all after 10 seconds. If they are breathing normally, place them in the recovery position and stay with them.
C CPR If they are still not breathing normally, start CPR. Chest compressions are the most important part of CPR. Start chest compressions as soon as possible after calling for help.
D Defibrillation Attach an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to the patient if one is available and there is someone else who is able to bring it. Do not get one yourself if that would mean leaving the patient alone.

When they are conscious, lie them on their back and raise their legs, for example by putting a pillow underneath.

Putting their head between their knees and splashing water on their face won’t work.

Back to top


Can fainting be prevented?

If you’re feeling faint, lie down with your legs raised slightly higher than your head. Be careful when moving and change positions very slowly, especially when moving from a lying or standing position

If you’re pregnant, avoid lying on your back, especially during the later months of pregnancy, because the pressure of your expanding uterus (womb) on your major blood vessels may cause you to feel faint.

Eating a healthy diet and not missing meals can help. Drink plenty of clear fluid, unless you have an existing medical condition which means this is not possible.

If you’ve fainted, you should avoid driving or operating any machinery until you have discussed your fainting with a healthcare professional.

Back to top


Complications of fainting

Fainting can be the sign of a medical condition, like a heart or brain disorder. It’s always worth checking with your doctor, especially if you haven’t fainted before.

Back to top

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Syncope (fainting) - myDr.com.au

Syncope (fainting or passing out) is a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness. Find out more about the causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Read more on myDr website

Fainting - Better Health Channel

Common causes of fainting include heat, pain, distress, the sight of blood, anxiety and hyperventilating.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Dizzy turns - myDr.com.au

Dizziness can be used to describe a wide variety of sensations. Find out the difference between vertigo and faintness, and possible underlying causes.

Read more on myDr website

Long QT syndrome - Better Health Channel

You should be investigated for long QT syndrome if you faint for no apparent reason, during or after exercise or emotional excitement.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Concussion

Some or all of the following may indicate concussion: • loss of consciousness • persistent headache • faintness, dizziness

Read more on St John Ambulance Australia website

Events That Aren't Epilepsy | Epilepsy Action Australia

Epilepsy usually involves an obvious and sudden change in behaviour and movement.

Read more on Epilepsy Action Australia website

Using Your EpiPen - Young Adults

Using Your EpiPen Top Tips For Using Your Epipen Practice using your EpiPen trainer device regularly

Read more on National Allergy Strategy website

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) for babies (less than 12 months of age) | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

CPR for babies (less than 12 months) There are 7 steps to follow when helping a collapsed person

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Managing Epilepsy | Epilepsy Action Australia | Epilepsy Action Australia

Medication is the first line of treatment in the management of epilepsy. With regular medication and a sensible lifestyle a full and active life is possible.

Read more on Epilepsy Action Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo