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8/22/22 blog post

when to be concerned about fainting during sports


in this article:

Syncope is a sudden, brief and complete loss of consciousness, otherwise known as fainting.

Children and adolescents with syncope may find that episodes happen more often when participating in exercise or immediately after exercise. A majority of these episodes are not serious, but in some cases, syncope can be a sign of something more serious. So how do we know when a child needs medical attention? We asked Smita Mehta, MD, pediatric cardiologist to help us understand when syncope is a cause for concern.

what are the common causes for syncope/fainting?

Syncope is believed to happen when there is a temporary decreased blood flow to the brain. The most common type is vasovagal syncope, which is commonly referred to as the common faint. There are numerous other causes for the common faint and some of these include:

  1. Dehydration
  2. Warm temperatures – hot weather or hot showers/baths
  3. Feeling sick and vomiting
  4. Seeing something scary or gross
  5. Getting blood drawn

Cardiac conditions such as heart failure and arrhythmias are very uncommon causes of syncope, especially in kids.

how does syncope relate to sports/athletics?

Athletes push themselves to their maximum potential and commonly don’t hydrate well enough or consume enough calories for their level of activity. They also often play sports outdoors in hot weather while wearing multiple layers of clothing and equipment. This puts them at risk of syncope.

how is syncope treated and prevented?

Immediate treatment of syncope involves stabilizing the patient, laying them flat, cooling them down and hydrating them with fluids.

Actions that can prevent the most common causes of syncope include:

  • Good hydration - enough to make you pee often and make the urine clear
  • Increased salt intake – pretzels, nuts, pickles
  • Caffeine avoidance
  • Good sleep
  • Regular exercise
  • Recognition and avoidance of situations that could lead to syncope

when should an athlete seek care for syncope?

You should seek medical care if any of the following symptoms occur:

  • Passing out during exertion (for example, passing out while running)
  • Passing out without any warning
  • Having chest pain during activity
  • Passing out while standing on the sidelines
  • Prolonged period of loss of consciousness or confusion after syncope
  • Sustained injuries, such as head trauma or cuts that may require medical attention.

Your child’s pediatrician will guide you on next steps. If it is recommended for your child to be seen by a specialist in cardiology, you can schedule an appointment online.

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Smita Mehta, MD

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