Sniffing and gasping can prevent fainting

London: Do you often feel weak, and sweat or have visual disturbances while standing up quickly? Sniff or gasp to prevent yourself from fainting episodes.

Patients with recurrent fainting are advised to avoid standing up quickly and standing for long periods of time.

Marta Bavolarova, a cardiologist at Louis Pasteur University Hospital in Kosice, Slovak Republic, investigated whether sniffing and gasping could prevent fainting by interrupting the falls in blood pressure and heart rate.

The study included two women aged 56 and 62 years with a history of vasovagal syncope — the most common type of fainting which can be caused by prolonged standing or standing up quickly.

The head up tilt test was performed on each patient.

At the moment blood pressure began to drop, patients were asked to sniff or gasp twice with their mouths closed and then breathe out.

The researchers found that blood pressure and heart rate did not drop and syncope was avoided.

Those who have prodromal symptoms like weakness, sweating or visual disturbances are advised to do counterpressure manoeuvres like leg crossing and hand grips to increase their heart rate and blood pressure.

“We now also tell patients that they can sniff or gasp to prevent themselves from fainting. This was a small preliminary study and we will confirm our findings in a larger number of patients,” said Bavolarova.

Recurrent fainting has serious effects on quality of life.

Patients are often injured when they fall, which reduces their mobility and ability to look after themselves. Depression is common in these patients.

Vasovagal syncope is an abnormality in the reflex actions controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

“We believe that sniffing and gasping have a strong sympathetic effect that inhibits the abnormal parasympathetic activity in these patients,” said Bavolarova.

The findings were presented at the “Acute Cardiovascular Care 2015” conference in Vienna on October 17.