Few things are more heart-wrenching than seeing your child sick and suffering. And if you’ve ever witnessed them fainting, you know the panic and helplessness you feel, not knowing what caused it or what to do next.
That’s why Dr. Ugonma Okparaocha and our Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center team are discussing what you need to know when your child faints. We want to give you accurate information to help you stay calm and make sound decisions. If you’re worried, bring your child to see us in Bel Air, Maryland, so we can diagnose the problem and start treatment if necessary.
Understanding fainting (syncope)
Fainting, or syncope, occurs when your child’s brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and experiences a temporary loss of consciousness, usually less than a minute. Your child could faint if their blood pressure drops suddenly, causing a reduction in blood flow to the brain, or could be due to several other problems.
Believe it or not, fainting is quite common and can happen to people of all ages. However, it can be particularly alarming when it happens to children.
Possible causes of fainting
There are numerous reasons why a child might faint. Some common causes of syncope include:
Dehydration or hunger
Dehydration or hunger can cause a drop in blood sugar levels, making your child feel lightheaded and weak, possibly leading to fainting.
Too much time in the sun dehydrates your child and can lead to fainting. Summers in Bel Air are notoriously hot and humid, so keep your eye on your child during outdoor play and sports, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion, such as clammy skin, dizziness, a weak pulse, and fainting.
Low blood pressure
Allergies, infections, dehydration, sudden position changes (standing up quickly), certain medications, and alcohol consumptions, can cause low blood pressure, reducing blood flow to your child’s brain and causing them to faint.
Low blood sugar
If your child has diabetes, they may experience low blood sugar due to missed or wrong doses of insulin or missed meals. Strenuous exercise, emotional stress, injury, and illness can also drop their blood sugar level, which may cause fainting.
Anemia occurs when your child’s body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, resulting in a lack of oxygen and fainting.
Breathing problems, such as asthma (which causes a decrease in oxygen levels) or hyperventilation (which causes a decrease in carbon dioxide levels), can lead to fainting.
Symptoms of syncope
You can spot the signs of syncope if you know what to look for:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
If your child has any of these symptoms, especially loss of consciousness, call us or get immediate medical attention.
When should parents be concerned about a child fainting?
While fainting isn’t always a cause for concern, there are some red flags you should watch out for, such as:
Family history of heart conditions
If you have a family history of heart conditions and your child faints, contact Dr. Okparaoacha immediately.
Fainting frequently or for extended periods
If your child faints frequently or is unconscious for an extended period, it could indicate an underlying health condition.
Fainting accompanied by other symptoms
If other symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations, accompany your child’s fainting episode, call Dr. Okparaoacha right away.
What to do if your child has fainted
Don’t panic if your child has fainted, but do assess the situation and take precautionary steps:
- Don’t move your child if you suspect an injury
- Loosen tight clothing or sports gear
- Keep your child calm and lying down until they are fully awake
Afterward, monitor your child’s behavior, appetite, and personality to ensure they act normally. If you have any concerns, call us.
If your child doesn’t improve quickly after fainting or exhibits any of the following symptoms, call for emergency help or take them to the nearest emergency department:
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Bluish tinge to the lips or face
- Vision problems
- Racing heart
- Impaired movement
- Impaired speech
Also, if your child has fainted more than once within 24 hours, fainted while lying down, or fainted while playing sports or running, seek immediate help.
How to prevent fainting
Although some causes of fainting are unavoidable, you can take steps to keep your child upright:
Keep them well hydrated
Keep plenty of water available for your child all day and remind them to drink it. Ensuring they drink enough water and fluids can prevent dehydration and reduce the risk of fainting.
A double header, an all-day soccer tournament, or an active day at camp may seem like fun and games, but it can exhaust your child. Encouraging your kid to take breaks and avoid standing for long periods can help prevent fainting, especially in hot temperatures.
If you’re concerned about your child fainting, don’t hesitate to request an appointment online or call Dr. Okparaocha at Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center. She can perform tests to determine the underlying cause of fainting and provide appropriate treatment.