Symptoms of fainting 

When you faint, you'll feel weak and unsteady before passing out for a short period of time, usually only a few seconds.

Fainting can occur when you're sitting, standing, or when you get up too quickly.

Warning symptoms

You may not experience any warning symptoms before losing consciousness, and if you do it may only be for a few seconds.

You may experience the following symptoms just before losing consciousness:

  • yawning
  • a sudden, clammy sweat
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • fast, deep breathing
  • confusion
  • lightheadedness
  • blurred vision or spots in front of your eyes
  • ringing in your ears

This will usually be followed by a loss of strength and consciousness.

When you collapse to the ground, your head and heart are on the same level. This means that your heart doesn't have to work as hard to push blood up to your brain. You should return to consciousness after about 20 seconds.

Dial 999 and ask for an ambulance if someone faints and doesn't regain consciousness within two minutes.

After fainting

After fainting, you may feel confused and weak for about 20-30 minutes. You may also feel tired and not be able to remember what you were doing just before you fainted.

Fainting or stroke?

Fainting can sometimes be mistaken for a serious medical condition, such as a stroke. A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted.

You should dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance if you think that you or someone else is having a stroke.

The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST, which stands for Face-Arms-Speech-Time (see below).

  • Face  the face may have fallen on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
  • Arms  the person may not be able to raise both arms and keep them there, due to weakness or numbness.
  • Speech  the person may have slurred speech.
  • Time  it's time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

You should also dial 999 and ask for an ambulance if someone faints and doesn't regain consciousness after a minute or two.

Page last reviewed: 04/11/2014

Next review due: 04/11/2016