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Light-Headedness or Faintness: Care Instructions


Light-headedness is a feeling that you are about to faint or "pass out." You do not feel as if you or your surroundings are moving. It is different from vertigo, which is the feeling that you or things around you are spinning or tilting.

Light-headedness usually goes away or gets better when you lie down. If light-headedness gets worse, it can lead to a fainting spell.

It is common to feel light-headed from time to time. It may be caused by many things. These include allergies, dehydration, illness, and medicines. Light-headedness usually is not caused by a serious problem. It often is caused by a short-lasting drop in blood pressure and blood flow to your head that occurs when you get up too quickly from a seated or lying position.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Lie down for 1 or 2 minutes when you feel light-headed. After lying down, sit up slowly and remain sitting for 1 to 2 minutes before slowly standing up.
  • Avoid movements, positions, or activities that have made you light-headed in the past.
  • Get plenty of rest, especially if you have a cold or flu, which can cause light-headedness.
  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, especially if you have a fever or have been sweating.
  • Do not drive or put yourself and others in danger while you feel light-headed.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your light-headedness gets worse or does not get better with home care.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.