Unconsciousness is a condition when an individual is completely unaware of himself and the surroundings and is, therefore, not in a position to act in response to people and activities. A lot of times, this state is also referred to as coma or being in a comatose or passed out condition.
Sometimes, people may also experience other changes in consciousness even without being unconscious. In medical terms, these changes are known as ‘changed or altered mental status'. In such situations, these individuals may also experience stupefaction, abrupt confusion or even stupor or trance. In effect, it is essential to treat unconsciousness and any other abrupt alteration in mental condition as a medical emergency.
Especially, it may be a really serious problem when a child loses consciousness. In effect, an unconscious condition is an indication of the fact that the brain is not receiving sufficient supply of oxygen. The reasons for this may include breathing problems and shock, for instance, stifling and near-smothering owing to deficiency of oxygen. Generally, an individual may lose consciousness owing to ingestion of some medications or poison. Other likely reasons that may result in unconsciousness may include seizures, a brain injury, brain tumor, stroke and even infections. Precisely speaking, unconsciousness may generally occur owing to any major ailment or injury and also due to substance abuse and use of alcoholic beverages in excessive amounts.
Black out or fainting is a word generally used to denote a less grave episode wherein people lose consciousness. Fainting occurs owing to a temporary disturbance of flow of blood to the brain. This condition may be caused due to hunger or pain or also overpowering poignant situations. As mentioned earlier, fainting is a short-lived condition and even a child who has fainted will recover voluntarily. Although he/ she may experience some extent of exhaustion after recovery, they will not endure any bewilderment when they come back to their senses. Fainting or brief unconsciousness is generally a result of low blood sugar levels, dehydration or an impermanent low blood pressure. Nevertheless, even grave problems of the heart or the nervous system may also be responsible for fainting. In such cases, your doctor will decided if you require any test to ascertain the reasons for fainting. Fainting may also be caused by a number of other reasons, such as coughing very hard, making great effort during bowel movement or hyperventilating (breathing rapidly).
However, one needs to seek emergency medical help in case a person remains unconscious for over a few minutes, as there may be several other problems related to it, for instance, internal or external hemorrhage, which, in turn, may result in shock. In the event of your child losing consciousness, it is advisable that you try to maintain your cool, but act swiftly.
Remaining asleep and being unconscious are two entirely different things. An individual who is sleeping will react to loud noise or even gentle shaking, which an unconscious person will not or cannot. In addition, when a person is unconscious, he/ she is unable to cough or clear their throat. At times, this may even result in death provided the bronchial air passages become choked in some way or the other.
When an individual becomes unconscious, he/ she may experience a number of symptoms, such as headache, lethargy, bewilderment, wooziness, incapacity to speak or move any part of his/ her body and palpitations or rapid heartbeat. In addition, such people may also experience incontinence (loss of bowel or control on their bladder) and stupor or trance. In such circumstances, the affected persons should be provided first aid without losing any time. At the same time, you should call or tell anyone else to call 911 for emergency medical aid.
While the medical team is on its way, examine the person's bronchial airways, breathing as well as pulse rate repeatedly. If needed, start rescue breathing as well as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) - an emergency process for reviving heart and lung function involving special physical techniques and frequently using electrical and mechanical equipment. In the event of the person still breathing and lying on his/ her back and you not feel that he/ she has received any spinal injury, roll the person cautiously in your direction onto the side. Subsequently, bend the top leg in such a manner that the hip and knee are at right angles. Now, incline the head gently back with a view to keep the air passages open. In case the breathing or pulse beat stops any time, again roll the person on to his back and start CPR.
On the other hand, if you find or feel that the person has sustained any spinal injury, leave him/ her at the place you found them till they continue to breathe. In case the person vomits, roll the whole body once to the side. While rolling the body, ensure that you support his/ her neck in order to keep the head and body in the same arrangement. Most importantly, keep the person warm till the arrival of the medical team.
When you notice any person fainting, try to prevent him/ her from falling. Gently lay the person flat on the floor and raise the person's feet approximately 12 inches. In case the fainting has been a result of low blood sugar levels, give the affected person some sweet food or drink when they regain consciousness.
When you are with an unconscious person, remember to adopt certain precautions. While what needs to be done to help an unconscious person to recover has been discussed above, here are a few things that you should not do while taking care of him/ her. Never give any food or drink to any person who is in an unconscious state. In addition, ensure that you do not leave the unconscious person all by himself/ herself. Never place a pillow under the head of an unconscious person for this will obstruct the flow of blood carrying oxygen to his/ her brain. It is very important to remember that you should neither slap an unconscious person or splash water on his/ her face in an attempt to help them recover.
When to contact a medical professional
You ought to seek emergency medical help when any individual becomes unconscious. Call 911 or ask someone else to call the number for immediate medical aid. You should especially call a medical professional when the person does not recover from unconsciousness quickly, in about a minute's time and if he/ she have fallen down and sustained injuries and are bleeding. Medical professionals should also be contacted immediately if the unconscious person is known to have diabetes, is not breathing, has seizures, is suffering from incontinence (losing control over bowel and bladder). In addition, medical help is also necessary if the person is aged over 50 years or the patient is a women and pregnant.
You should call 911 even if the person regains consciousness, but experiences pressure, some kind of unease, chest pain or has a throbbing or erratic heartbeat. Medical help should also be sought if the person is unable to speak, suffers from vision problems or is unable to move his/ her arms and legs even after recovering from unconsciousness.
Although it is impossible to predict when a person will faint or become unconscious, it is possible to avoid these conditions if one takes some precautions and keeps away from the things that often result in losing consciousness. Here are a few helpful tips which will enable you to avoid fainting or losing consciousness.
First and foremost, one needs to avoid any such situation where his/ her blood sugar level may fall drastically. In addition, people, especially those who have a tendency to faint, should avoid standing at the same place for a prolonged period without any movement. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially during warm weather conditions, also helps to avoid fainting or losing consciousness, as this helps to prevent dehydration.
In case you have a feeling that you are on the verge of fainting, immediately lie down or sit down with your head bowed forward between your knees. It is advisable that people who are enduring known medical conditions, for instance, diabetes, ought to wear a bracelet or medical alert tag all the time. This helps people to know what they should do in case you faint or lose consciousness somewhere away from home.
Supplements and herbs
Certain herbs and supplements have proved to be very effective in restoring health of people recovering from fainting or unconsciousness. For instance, an herbal tea prepared with licorice, American ginseng and/ or ginger is effective in reinstating energy after an incident wherein your child loses consciousness. When your child has received suitable emergency treatment and is sufficiently well to recover at home, give him/ her dose of this herbal tea two times every day for a couple of days.
Here is a word of caution. Never give American ginseng to any person who might be suffering from fever or may have other symptoms of infections.