We met”Mary” in our nurse-led tilt test clinic at Hammersmith Hospital. She had trouble understanding why she fainted in the kitchen whilst cooking.
Mary was confused as to why “I’m always standing in the kitchen … just peeling potatoes … or stirring a pan when I have one of my collapses.”
Her most recent event had happened whilst cooking Sunday lunch. She had been standing in a hot kitchen for over and hour and had just checked the roast in the oven when she began to feel dizzy, weak and very hot. She kept standing- holding on to the worktop for a mother minute or so before she collapsed and briefly fainted.
She came to on the on the floor surrounded by her family who had heard her fall . Everyone was in a bit of a panic initially. However, after rest and a drink of water she felt better and was able to carry on cooking the dinner and no one went hungry.
We reviewed her previous results together and they were all normal. So what was wrong with her she wondered?
During her visit the syncope nurse helped Mary understand how blood pressure and the circulation of blood in the body normally works. By the end of our conversation, she understood what impact a hot kitchen environment with the oven on and saucepans bubbling on the hob can lead to blood pooling.
In retrospect, she recognised that when busy she tends not to drink much at all and that she was likely dehydrated on the day. The heat, dehydration and prolonged standing can all work together to encourage blood to pool in our limbs and cause the body to struggle to send blood back up to the heart and brain.
Mary had come to understand he key fainting triggers, Moreover, she also learned that felling hot, weak and dizzy were her warning signs to take action. By recognising her symptoms as warning signs she could take action to prevent a faint. Holding on the the worktop does not help but laying down felt would. Indeed, this notion was put to the test when she had her tilt test and a full faint was avoided by the nurse tilting the bed down.
Mary left her appointment understanding more about how her body works and knowing that she can help herself to stop fainting by keeping hydrated, keeping the kitchen cooler, applying isometric exercises when standing and changing position … and sitting down when peeling potatoes!