Traveling with a Fainting Condition

Hi, my name is Anna, and I have Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS). If you’re reading this and you have this condition too, let’s start a club! If you’re reading this and you’ve never heard of it, let me explain.

In simplest terms, sometimes my heart can’t pump my blood hard enough, and my brain doesn’t get enough blood, so I pass out. Certain things can make it worse, like standing for long periods of time, having blood drawn, or heat. I’ve fainted from all three. (Ooh there’s a fun story about an ambulance being called because I passed out after getting blood taken!) As you can imagine, this makes traveling a bit difficult, especially things like hiking. I love hiking! So how do I do it?

I’m on medication

I used to take fludrocortisone (a steroid) everyday. Now, I only take it in the Spring and Summer, since that is when my syncope is the worst. I see my cardiologist once a year to evaluate my prescription.

I know my body

The first time I passed out I think I was eight or nine, so I know the drill. There are almost always clear warning signs. I’ve never just FAINTED out of nowhere.  It goes like this: I start getting dizzy, then a bit nauseous, then I grey-out (it’s almost like blacking out, but you’re a little more aware), then I black out, then finally, I faint. So, if I feel myself starting to feel light headed, I’ll sit down, no matter where I am. I’ve sat down in the middle of an aisle in a grocery store, I’ve sat down in the mall, I’ve sat down while standing in lines before, I’ve sat down in an elevator. I look stupid in the moment, I’m sure, but it’s better than fainting! When we hiked Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree, I had to sit down probably ten times on the way up. Bless my very patient partner.

I wear compression leggings

Now, hear me out. Before you say that compression wear is only for your grandma, know that it also helps with circulation. What happens with NCS is, when your blood pressure is dropping, it pools in your arms and legs. You can usually tell when I’m about to pass out, because my hands and legs will turn purple. My doctor prescribed me compression stockings, but stockings are not practical when hiking. So I did my research, and found compression leggings on Amazon! They look exactly like regular workout leggings! Compression leggings make it harder for the blood to pool in my legs, and helps my blood circulate.  I wore them while hiking in CA, and they seemed to work great. Obviously not a cure, but anything that helps, right?

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I eat and drink the right things

Functioning with this condition for so long, I’ve learned all the tricks. The best thing you can do for low blood pressure is EAT SALT, since salt raises your blood pressure. To the average person, that is usually a bad thing. Not for me! When hiking, I will always bring some crackers, salted peanuts, and I usually drink a full Gatorade before my hike, and bring one along too. Gatorade has an INSANE amount of sodium in it. I’ve also learned that Gatorade is SO salty, that you can add an entire salt packet (like the ones from McDonalds) to it, and it tastes literally exactly the same. Some people with NCS travel with salt cubes, but I physically cannot bring myself to do that. Yuck.

I avoid doing certain trips alone

I have my condition under enough control that I can now travel alone. But it’s a calculated decision. I would personally never go hiking alone, or anywhere exceptionally hot. Fainting is scary enough, fainting alone in an unfamiliar city is terrifying.

I inform my travel group

Whenever I travel, I give the same rundown to the people around me. “I have a conditioin that causes me to faint sometimes. I usually have warning signs though. It’s difficult for me to speak when I’m in that state though. If I pass out, lay me down flat and put my feet up if you can. Do NOT call am ambulance. I usually will wake up within 30 seconds.”

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Maybe you have NCS, or maybe you just have low blood pressure. Either way, I hope these tips help you or someone you know!

 

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9 thoughts on “Traveling with a Fainting Condition

  1. Hi’ I was born with NCS misdiagnosed/tilt table test, until my 30’s now in my 60’s I got this most people haven’t a clue what I/we go thew because I look like one the healthiest people on this planet.

    I do so thank the universe for that then again I have a lot to do with the way I look.

    SamM

  2. Hi Anna! I loved reading this because I say those things all the time. People think I’m crazy when I tell them I NEED salt and I couldn’t help but laugh when you mentioned sitting down anywhere. I do that all the time—I don’t care where I’m at because it’s better than ending up with concussions. I’ve actually been diagnosed with something a little different though, it’s called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome also known as POTS. Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Hello fellow fainting sister! lol. Yes I sit down ANYWHERE! I’ve had two concussions from fainting, so I don’t take the chance anymore! Thank you for reading <3 Glad I made you laugh!

  3. Hi Anna! I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I did a 14 mile hike in Montana last summer and at one point had to sit down ever 3-4 steps. My dad is 60 and was out-hiking me! I’m 27 and in pretty decent shape. When I was finally diagnosed I was so relieved. I thought I’d just been a wuss my whole life. I hear you, girl! So glad you’ve found what works!!

  4. Hello. I have some sort of fainting disorder but my doctor doesn’t know what. It seems to be triggered by stress. I can feel it coming on. I get really hot and really nervous and light headed and then I get tingly all over and my vision gets fuzzy. I’ve learned to sit down if I start to feel lightheaded. I blacked out once during a blood draw and could hear the nurse freaking out and calling for help. I’ve noticed that my legs get really sore and heavy so I bought compression socks but I had no idea about compression leggings. I’m going to order some right away. Thank you!

  5. I’ve been passing out since I was 5 years old when I did any strenuous exercise or from heat. As a child it was embarrassing, now as an adult I began to learn my triggers. I did seek a doctor for help and he told me that I have “chronic low pressure” and to just eat more salt. It works for daily living but I LOVE hiking and that’s where my issues arise. I always feel faint (ringing in my ears, nauseous, dizzy, seeing spots then gray that turns into fainting). Usually my legs, hands & fingers swell when I hike and when I do certain exercises at the gym. After doing another google search I came across your post and I will try the compression leggings & socks. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Sounds like you are taking all the right steps! It’s all about learning your triggers and warning signals. And compression wear really helps me! Hope it helps you too! <3

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