It is not unheard of – you are sat at home watching the television when a family member starts to feel a bit light-headed and dizzy. They start to stumble and eventually collapse in a heap onto the floor.
Undoubtedly and naturally, you panic.
You rush straight towards them, sit them up straight away, get them a glass of water, and hope that they recover quickly.
Unfortunately this is NOT the way to handle a person who has collapsed. Let us see why.
Why do we collapse?
A collapse onto the floor is a response of the body to a decrease in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to a number of different causes, including –
- A sudden decrease in blood pressure that could be due to medication
- An irregular heart rhythm that results in the heart beat being less effective in pumping blood to the brain
- Narrowing of the blood vessels in the neck that results in less blood being pumped to the brain
- An alteration in blood pressure when sitting or standing suddenly from a lying down posture (called postural hypotension)
- Prolonged sitting or standing that leads to pooling of blood in the legs
- An epileptic seizure – though the features associated with these are fairly obvious.
It is also good to bear in mind that patients may feel dizzy due to problems with the balance mechanism in their inner ear. However, sometimes certain positions can cause dizziness, and this is called benign positional vertigo. Diabetic patients may experience similar symptoms when they run a low blood sugar and are often aware of what a hypoglycemic attack feels like.
What are the symptoms?
Patients who collapse generally get a sense that they are about to. Symptoms may include a feeling of tiredness, sweating, becoming pale, feeling light-headed, feeling as though the room is spinning around and feeling nauseous. Some patients may experience chest pain or palpitations (like their heart is racing fast). These symptoms occur a few seconds to minutes before they collapse, and may persist for a short while after the patient recovers.
When the patient collapses, they often do not respond for a few seconds though they are awake. This is because the blood supply to the brain has been compromised and they have altered mental states at the time. Once again, these are short lived episodes that subside within no time.
After the episode has concluded, patients can take a few minutes to recover and return to their normal state. Most patients may never experience another episode like this ever again, but it is always worthwhile getting it checked out by a doctor to ensure that there is nothing much to worry about.
Managing a collapsed relative at home
We have not discussed the detailed management of patients who have suffered from a collapse. However, as a family member, it is important to know what to do in the event that a family member collapses. But before you run towards them, make sure it is safe for you to approach them first. Remember, you do not want to put yourself in harms way at any point, as this can compromise your ability to help your friend or family member, not to mention the injury you can suffer yourself. Here are the steps to adopt once you get to the collapsed patient –
1. Lie them down flat on the ground. Under no circumstances try to sit them up immediately. The reason for lying them down is to increase the amount of blood that flows to the brain. This can be further increased by raising their legs to around 30 to 45 degrees. In a few seconds, the brain gets the blood that it needs and this can help then regain consciousness sooner.
2. Do not give them water to drink immediately. Patients who have suffered a collapse can be drowsy for a few seconds and feeding them water or any food can result in it entering the lungs and resulting in a chest infection.
3. Wait a while. When the patient feels ready, they will get off the floor themselves. Do not try to encourage them to get up too soon.
4. In cases where patients feel like they are about to collapse, it is a good idea to either sit down and bend forward so that the head is below the level of the knees, or just lie down flat till the feeling passes.
5. Once fully recovered and completely oriented, a small snack and a glass of water can help the patient feel better.
What to do after
Keep them hydrated. Advise caution when they are walking around. Driving is ideally not recommended, particularly if the episodes of collapse have no preceding symptoms.
It is a good idea to visit a doctor if this happens to a friend, family member or even yourself to be examined fully and obtain a series of tests if required. There are a number of different investigations that we offer at Baliga Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd. that help manage patients who have suffered from episodes of collapse.