My Child Fainted: Should I Be Worried?
April 26, 2021
It’s frightening to see your child lose consciousness. Although there are numerous causes for this, fortunately, the majority tend to be nothing serious.
At least one in four kids will faint at some point before they reach adulthood, usually due to temporary lack of blood flow to the brain.
The most common cause of fainting in children is called vasovagal syncope, which is a direct result of being dehydrated, a response to pain, or emotional distress that causes the heart rate and blood pressure to drop suddenly.
Fainting, known medically as syncope, can have a number of causes, including dehydration, overheating or prolonged standing still, which causes blood to pool in the legs. Young children sometimes hold their breath during fits of anger, turn blue and pass out. Unique causes of “routine” fainting include laughing, combing your hair, stretching and even going to the bathroom.
Sometimes a young person will feel a fainting spell coming on, otherwise known as a prodrome. They will say they see spots and appear extremely pale. They may feel dizzy, nauseous and hot, but are cool and sweaty. Other times, fainting episodes can occur without warning.
In either case, kids usually recover quickly – in less than one minute.
When To Seek Medical Care
So when should parent seek medical care for a child who has fainted?
In most cases, fainting is not an emergency situation, but there are exceptions, says pediatric cardiologist Nathaniel Robbins, MD. Call 9-1-1 if fainting occurs while they are actively running, they cannot be immediately aroused, there is a family history of someone who has died at a young age, or they experienced their heart beating very fast before passing out.
A child who faints should be seen by their pediatrician for an evaluation, Dr. Robbins says. This is to rule out any causes that are serious. The pediatrician can assess if your child has any risk and order an ECG to rule out rare causes of syncope. If the pediatrician is unsure, they can refer your child to a pediatric cardiologist.
“Fainting usually is not cause for alarm, but a doctor will want to rule out any serious problems,” he says. “A very small percentage of cases are caused by a heart condition. Sometimes children have an irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmias. Or they might have a diminished pumping volume or myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle.”
If a heart problem is suspected, a doctor may run tests such as an electrocardiogram or echocardiograms.
Other Causes of Fainting
Here are some other medical conditions than may cause a child to faint, Dr. Robbins says:
- Internal injury
- Inner ear problems
- Eating disorders
- Drug and alcohol use
Dr. Robbins also warns about social media challenges where kids try to pass out intentionally. These stunts have names such as the “pass-out challenge” or the “choking game.”
“These extremely dangerous fads spread quickly on the internet,” Dr. Robbins says. “Some children have even died from purposely cutting off blood and oxygen to their brains. Parents would be wise to talk to their kids about the dangers of these social media challenges.”
The Congenital Heart Collaborative at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital features a nationally recognized team of heart specialists, including pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons and pediatric cardiologists. All of our specialists have extensive pediatric training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of congenital heart conditions. Learn more about pediatric cardiology services at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.
Tags: Pediatric Heart