Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: Do I need to go to the ER after fainting?

Q. I tend to faint when I get sick. Do I need to go to the emergency department (or call 911) when I faint? My doctor said I should, but that seems so unnecessary.

A. The short answer to your question uses two of the most important words in medicine: It depends.

The medical term for fainting is a Greek word, syncope (pronounced SIN-koe-pee). The defining characteristic is a temporary loss of consciousness that comes on suddenly and is frequently followed by a fall. The immediate cause is usually low blood flow to the brain, which results in brain cells not getting the oxygen and sugar that they need to function properly. We'd be fainting all the time if our hearts and circulatory system didn't fight the gravity that would otherwise pull blood away from the brain down to the lower parts of the body.

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