Witnessing an individual collapse and lose consciousness can be a tremendously frightening experience. You may get so confused that in a bid to offer help, you end up doing things that might cause more harm than good to the victim.
Are you interested in knowing what to do when this happens? Please continue reading.
In this post, which is the first in a series of articles, I will explore the possible causes of fainting, how to identify them, and what to do for the victim.
What would cause a person to collapse?
To collapse means to lose consciousness due to illness and injuries. To collapse, faint, slump, or lose consciousness all mean the same thing. There are a plethora of reasons why an individual may collapse.
Some result from diseases of the brain, heart, lungs, blood and other organs. Injuries from a fall or physical attacks can also cause collapse. Others are as a result of changes in the quantity of certain solutes in your blood such as glucose, sodium and potassium.
Many causes of passing out are clear, for instance, someone has an accident, sustains injuries, and faints. Loss of too much blood is what causes this.
Someone may faint from excessive loss of blood or body fluid
Any condition that makes a person lose a lot of blood or body fluids (in the form of urine, sweat, vomitus, and stool) can cause a person to faint. When this loss happens fast, the person is more likely to faint than when it happens gradually.
Excessive fluid loss from viral or bacterial infections of the stomach and intestines can cause vomiting and diarrhoea (frequent passing of loose stool).
A person who is passing large amounts of urine due to urinary tract infection, poorly managed diabetes mellitus, and/or diabetes insipidus can lose a lot of body fluids through urine.
Severe exhaustion from doing strenuous exercise or prolonged strenuous activity in a hot environment can make a person faint. Doing a strenuous activity in a hot environment for prolonged periods without rest is risky. This situation implies excessive sweating without replacing the fluid by drinking water.
You can faint from heat stroke and excessive loss of fluid via sweating. A heatstroke is a condition in which body temperature becomes extremely high (>41.5 degrees centigrade). This may be preceded by extreme exhaustion, dizziness and nausea or vomiting.
Why a blood donor may collapse.
Before a person is allowed to donate blood, they must have reasonably high red blood cell counts, in addition to other eligibility criteria.
However, Some people faint when donating blood. They may pass out for any or both of these two reasons.
First, the rate of blood collection from a blood donor can be so fast that the body has insufficient time to compensate for the loss of red blood cells and blood volume, hence the fainting.
Another reason is that the sight of blood or needle can trigger vasovagal syncope, thereby causing collapse, in some cases, even before the blood collection begins. Read more about vasovagal syncope later in this post.
Injuries to the body and internal organs can lead to collapse.
Internal and external injuries that cause blood loss from an injury site can become excessive. Excessive blood loss then results in low blood pressure, thus causing loss of consciousness.
The rupture of a hollow organ such as the gullet, fallopian tube or womb may result in excessive loss of blood,which can cause an individual to pass out. Lost fluid must be replaced following fainting from excessive fluid and blood loss.
This is an emergency and should be treated as such to avoid it leading to death. Replacement fluid and blood passes through a needle or tube inserted into a vein (Intravenous cannula).
In extreme cases of fluid and blood loss, most veins can collapse, making it difficult to find for the cannula insertion. The emergency health worker would do their best to find a vein or use a vein on the unconscious person’s neck.
How pain and fear can cause collapse
Vasovagal syncope is a condition in which an individual suddenly faints following an unexpected frightful or painful (Physical and emotionally painful) experience. This fainting happens because the body fails to regulate and maintain your blood pressure within the normal range.
Consequently, the brain receives little blood and oxygen, resulting in loss of consciousness. Loss of consciousness often lasts for a few seconds to minutes.
In summary, loss of blood and body fluids from any cause, can cause collapse and this can easily be treated.
Subsequent articles in this series will discuss other reasons why a person may pass out which are attributable to the brain, lungs, and heart. I will discuss changes in the concentration of certain solutes in the blood, as a cause of collapse.