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HealthInfo Canterbury

Funny turns or fainting

Ngā āhuatanga hanga rerekē, te hemo rānei

Fainting is when you briefly lose consciousness. This is also known as a blackout. A funny turn is a short period of feeling light-headed or dizzy.

Fainting or a funny turn are caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. Feeling faint comes on suddenly and lasts a short time, then you recover quickly.

Several things can trigger fainting, including:

If you faint or have a funny turn, it's important to get yourself checked by a doctor. While not usually caused by something serious, fainting can be caused by an underlying health condition such as a heart problem or seizure.

What to do if you are feeling faint

The best thing to do is to lie down. If you can't lie down, try squatting, crossing your legs and squeezing them together or gripping your hands together and pulling.

What to do if someone is feeling faint or faints

If someone is feeling faint or has fainted:

Once the person has woken up:

Important

If the person doesn't wake up after one minute, phone 111 and ask for an ambulance. Then follow the advice for helping an unconscious person.

Preventing fainting and light-headedness

If you're prone to fainting frequently, it's important to drink plenty of fluids and have regular meals.

Avoiding overheating is also useful.

Have more salt

If your fainting and light-headedness is caused by low blood pressure, you can slightly increase the amount of salt in your food. You can do this by sprinkling half a teaspoon of salt on your meal at night. Don't add more salt to your food if you're being treated or monitored for high blood pressure.

Wear tight clothing

If you faint quite often, especially when standing or just after exercising, it's a good idea to wear tight-fitting clothing below your waist. One of the best things to wear is compression sports clothing, commonly called Skins (their brand name). You've probably seen sportspeople wearing these.

Alternatively, you could buy below-the-knee compression stockings from your pharmacist. Ask for grade two compression stockings. You'll need to get these measured.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2022.

Sources

Page reference: 50935

Review key: HIFTF-25276