Fainting/change in mental state : Emergency room
While you probably know that emergency rooms are for emergencies, did you know that only a minority of ER visits are actually true emergencies? Consider fainting or losing consciousness. If you lose consciousness and fall down or hit your head—that’s an emergency. On average, however, people faint because they haven’t eaten recently (to avoid fainting) or they hyperventilated and lost consciousness—in which case a doctor in an urgent care center might do just as well. In fact, urgent care centers treat more than 30% of all U.S.
Despite what you may have seen on television, if you experience a fainting spell or episode of confusion or disorientation—especially if accompanied by chest pain—go to an emergency room immediately. All of these symptoms could be symptoms of an underlying condition such as stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism (blood clot in lung), or meningitis. Fainting and passing out is also often a symptom of dehydration. The quicker you can get medical attention for any sudden physical change, such as an apparent faint, dizziness or loss of coordination—the more likely it is that doctors will be able to quickly treat whatever problem has arisen.
If you faint or feel like you might pass out, it’s probably not a sign that you need emergency care. If you feel disoriented or have trouble keeping your balance, however, seek medical attention immediately. You could be dealing with other issues. For example, if you have diabetes or another condition that impairs your blood sugar levels, low blood sugar can cause symptoms like weakness and lightheadedness. Similarly, if you’re dehydrated—perhaps from a stomach bug—you may be feeling lightheaded. Your body is pushing fluids back into circulation when it should be conserving them by increasing urination and sweating—which is why it feels so urgent to drink fluids when your body is trying (and failing) to shed them.