Fainting represents a frightening experience - for you and the people around you. Fainting is a loss of consciousness. Staying conscious is dependent on normal brain function. To function normally, the brain needs a large supply of oxygen. When the oxygen supply to the brain is interrupted, fainting may occur.

Numerous other causes explain fainting, including epilepsy, heart disorder and cerebrovascular disease. Many are not serious, but an alert first-aider should be especially concerned if the fainting victim:- Is older than 40.

- Has repeated attacks of unconsciousness.

- Does not awaken within four or five minutes.

- Loses consciousness while sitting or lying down.

- Faints for no apparent reason.

Signs of fainting

Fainting may occur suddenly or may be be preceded by warning signs, including any or all of the following:

- Dizziness and the victim tells of "spots" before his eyes.

- Nausea

- Paleness

- Sweating

First aid

Important things not to do include:

- Do not pour water on the person's face.

- Do not give the person anything to drink until he or she has fully recovered.

- Do not use stimulants such as smelling salts or ammonia capsules.

- Do not slap the person's face.

When the person looks as though on the verge of fainting:

- Prevent him or her from falling.

- Lay the victim on his or her back and elevate the legs eight to 12 inches.

- If vomiting begins, turn the person on his or her side to keep the airway open and clear.

- Loosen clothing around the person's neck (such as tight necktie or collar).

- Wet a cloth with cool water and wipe the person's forehead and face.

Most cases of fainting are not serious and the victim regains consciousness quickly. However, seek medical attention if recovery is not complete within five minutes. If the victim has fallen, assess for injuries.