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People who become unconscious don’t respond to loud sounds or shaking. They may even stop breathing or their pulse may become faint. This calls for immediate emergency attention. The sooner the person receives emergency first aid, the better their outlook will be.
Unconsciousness can be brought on by a major illness or injury, or complications from drug use or alcohol abuse.
Common causes of unconsciousness include:
A person may become temporarily unconscious (faint) when sudden changes occur within the body. Common causes of temporary unconsciousness include:
Symptoms that may indicate that unconsciousness is about to occur include:
If you see a person who has become unconscious, take these steps:
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a way to treat someone when they stop breathing or their heart stops beating.
If a person stops breathing, call 911 or ask someone else to. Before beginning CPR, ask loudly, "Are you okay?" If the person doesn’t respond, begin CPR.
To minimize potential injuries, only those trained in CPR should perform rescue breathing. If you haven’t been trained, perform chest compressions until medical help arrives.
If you are trained in CPR, tilt the person’s head back and lift the chin to open up the airway.
If unconsciousness is due to low blood pressure, a doctor will administer medication by injection to increase blood pressure. If low blood sugar level is the cause, they may need something sweet to eat or a glucose injection.
Medical staff should treat any injuries that caused the person to become unconscious.
Potential complications of being unconscious for a long period of time include:
If you received CPR while unconscious, you may have broken or fractured ribs from the chest compressions. Your doctor will X-ray your chest and treat any fractures or broken ribs before you leave the hospital.
Choking can also occur during unconsciousness. Food or liquid may have blocked your airway. This is particularly dangerous and could lead to death if it isn’t remedied.
Your outlook will depend on what caused you to lose consciousness. However, the sooner you receive emergency treatment, the better your outlook will be.
Written by: April Kahn
Medically reviewed on: Oct 23, 2015: Deborah Weatherspoon Ph.D., R.N., CRNA
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