If your child faints, there are several things your doctor will consider:
- vasovagal fainting - This is the most frequent cause of fainting in children and is commonly seen in teens who have been sitting or lying down in one position for a while, and then suddenly arise. Their more elastic blood vessels in the legs and lower abdomen pool the blood temporarily and reduce the return flow to the heart. This drops the blood pressure to the brain enough to cause momentary malfunction and the child becomes lightheaded and may pass out. As soon as the child lies down, the blood flow normalises and the spell passes.
- heart arrhythmia or other heart condition - This is a potentially very serious cause of fainting. Cardiological evaluation is mandatory for any child who
- has a family history of unexplained sudden deaths
- has a blood relative with a heart rhythm problem
- who faints during exercise
- or has a heart murmur that is not known for certain to be benign
- seizure disorder - A child who is found unconscious after presumably fainting could have had a seizure.
In general, remember that most fainting spells in childhood are harmless vasovagal attacks. These can often be diagnosed by your doctor with a good history, a physical exam and a blood pressure check wtih the child lying down and standing up. However, from the list above it is clear that this is a problem your doctor needs to hear about and evaluate without delay when it first occurs.
See also breath holding spells for a discussion of the problem in the young child.