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Fainting is when you pass out for a short time. It's not usually a sign of something serious, but if it happens often you should see your GP.

Emergency action required: Call 999 or 112 if someone faints and they:

  • cannot be woken up after 1 minute
  • have hurt themselves from a fall
  • are shaking or jerking because of a seizure or fit

Symptoms of fainting

Fainting usually happens suddenly.

Symptoms can include:

  • dizziness
  • cold skin and sweating
  • slurred speech
  • feeling sick
  • changes to your vision

Causes of fainting

There are many reasons why someone might faint.

Causes include:

  • standing up too quickly – this could be a sign of low blood pressure
  • not eating or drinking enough
  • being too hot
  • being very upset, angry, or in severe pain
  • heart problems
  • taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol

Non-urgent advice: See your GP if:

  • you have fainted and do not know the cause
  • you have recently fainted more than once

You must tell the National Driver Vehicle Licence Service (NDLS) if you're fainting regularly. It could affect your ability to drive.

Find out about driving and medical conditions on the NDLS website

Preventing fainting

If you feel like you are about to faint, try to:

  • lie down with your legs raised – if you cannot do this then sit with your head lowered between your knees
  • drink some water
  • eat something
  • take some deep breaths

If you see someone faint

If you are with someone who has fainted, try to keep calm.

If you can, lay them on their back and raise their legs.

Usually, the person who has fainted will wake up within 20 seconds.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 13 April 2021
Next review due: 13 April 2024

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.