This section is from the book "The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine. Volume 2.", by J. H. Kellogg, M.D.. Also available from Amazon: The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2.
Fainting, or syncope, is due to sudden failure of the heart's action. At the moment a person faints, the heart nearly or quite ceases to beat, so that a sufficient amount of blood is not sent to the brain, and the person falls unconscious. The action of the lungs is also checked. Fainting may be occasioned by loss of blood, by violent mental emotion,-as joy, fear, or grief,-a blow upon the pit of the stomach, a violent electric shock, or anything which arrests the action of the heart. Many persons will faint at the sight of disagreeable or unusual objects. The sight of blood or a serious wound causes some people to faint. When a person faints, the face is pale, pupils dilated, breathing suspended or gasping, pulse very feeble or not perceptible. Just before fainting occurs, the patient is dizzy and becomes weak and limp.
Although fainting is a condition which approaches very near actual death, it is not often fatal. When a person faints he should be immediately laid on his back with the head lower than the rest of the body if possible, so as to encourage the flow of blood to the brain. The dress should be loosened about the neck and chest, and cold water should be dashed upon the face with the hand. Slapping the chest, especially over the region of the heart, is also a useful measure. If necessary, a handkerchief upon which a few drops of spirits of hartshorn have been sprinkled, should be placed to the nostrils of the patient. He should be kept in a horizontal position until the breathing and pulse are fully restored and color returns to the cheeks. The upright position is an exceedingly dangerous one for the fainting person. When the attack is prolonged, or shows a disposition to recur, alternate hot and cold applications should be made to the spine and the patient should be given hot drinks of some kind.