Swoon, or Syncope, is a su den fainting, in which the action of the heart is diminished, or for a time entirely suspended. It is generally preceded by anxiety, difficult respiration ; the pulse being low and tremulous; the patient turning cold and pale, so that he is nearly deprived of all sensation. - In some instances, these symptoms are more urgent; the limbs are flexible, but exhausted of their strength ; and the whole body is in a state of deadly, cold torpor. It is remarkable, that patients, during the fit, often hear the whole conversation respecting them, but feel the want of power to exert themselves : the recovery is, in most cases, announced by deep and heavy sighs.
When swooning occurs in the commencement of acute disorders, it is generally an unfavourable omen ; though, in the advanced stages, it is less alarming : in violent bleedings, it frequently affords relief; but, when faintings occur, without any apparent cause, there will be just apprehension of danger.
Causes : - Long continued exertions of the mind, such as deep study; violent passions ; loss of strength from profuse evacuations, particularly of blood; hunger; pain; want of rest; surfeits; impure air; worms; narcotic poisons; and affections of the interior organs.
Cure : - The patient should immediately be exposed to the open air, and be sprinkled with cold water on the neck and face. Strong, pungent odours, or volatile spirits held to the nostrils, ought to be used with caution; and only where the strength of the patient has been considerably reduced, especially in hysterics and hypochondriasis ; in these cases, spirit of hartshorn, tincture of valerian, castor, or asafoetida may be inhaled with advantage. - If the swooning originate from anger, and be attended with nausea, vomiting, bitter taste, and pain at the pit of the stomach, a gentle emetic may be given, with copious draughts warm chamomile tea: similar means may likewise be employed, in co sequence of a surfeit. - Persons of a plethoric habit, when fainting from violence of passion, ought immediately to lose a few ounces of blood from the arm; and afterwards take a cooling aperient, for instance, infusions of senna, tamarinds with manna, salts, etc. If it arise from excess of pain, benefit may be derived from opium ; and, when it is occasioned by a fit of terror, or a sudden fright, first blood-letting, then small doses of laudanum and antimonial wine (from five to ten drops of the former, and double that proportion of the latter), will tend to compose the nerves, and to promote perspiration. - Poisons and worms require the treatment mentioned under their respective heads. - When the fit of swooning is the effect of too violent purgatives or emetics, a few drops of the tincture of opium, in conjunction with an aromatic wine, will prove the most proper remedy.
In cases of great debility, it will be necessary to abstain from all stimulating food or drink, and to use the mildest astringents, in combination with a bland and nourishing diet. During the paroxysm, frictions of the extremities with hot flannels, will greatly assist the recovery of the patient.