Bri Clark was relaxing at home when she stood up from the couch, felt funny and suddenly lost consciousness, waking up in a pool of blood a few minutes later.
She posted the aftermath in a viral TikTok video, calling it her public service announcement.
“If you ever feel like you’re going to pass out, just sit down,” she says in the clip, adding a couple of expletives. “Because if you don’t and you pass out, this is (what) happens.”
“This” is a massive vertical scar on her forehead, bruises and a busted lip — injuries inflicted when she fell face first onto the 100-year-old hardwood floor at her home in Dickson, Tennessee.
It happened March 27 when Clark had a bad reaction to a delta-8 THC gummy she took for pain relief, causing her blood pressure to drop, she says.
“I’ve never passed out before, so I had no idea what the symptoms were in your body before that happened,” Clark, 41, tells TODAY.com. She says she regrets trying to walk back to the couch instead of just immediately sitting down.
“I got really dizzy and my vision started having a black outline around it. My whole body got really tingly … and then everything went black.”
What happens when you faint?
It may seem like a freak accident, but passing out is one of the most common issues emergency medicine doctors see, says Dr. Torree McGowan, an emergency medicine physician in Culver, Oregon, and a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians.
The causes can range from benign all the way up to life-threatening, and depending on what the person is doing when they pass out, the consequences of suddenly fainting can be severe, including cracked skulls and brain injuries, she adds.
“I have seen patients that have had big cuts on their face like this lady did. I’ve seen people that have had bleeding in their brain. I’ve seen people who have had broken necks, broken arms. You can absolutely hurt yourself when this happens,” McGowan, who did not treat Clark, tells TODAY.com.
“If you happen to be standing when you pass out, you can absolutely fall. This lady unfortunately hit her face and had a very large injury from that. It can absolutely happen.”
Syncope, the medical term for passing out, happens when there’s a sudden change in the blood flow to the brain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Blood pressure and heart rate get very low, so the body is trying to get horizontal to ensure blood flow to the head and protect the brain, McGowan explains.
Symptoms include feeling dizzy, nauseated or lightheaded; having cold or clammy skin; and experiencing tunnel vision or vision that blurs or goes dark. Clark says "it feels like your whole body blushes" and recalls a tingling feeling.
Causes for passing out:
McGowan says they include:
- Getting your blood drawn or seeing blood — some people also faint at the sight of needles or other medical equipment.
- Eating or drinking too little — dehydration is an especially common cause in the summer.
- Feeling anxious or nervous — on your first day of work, for example.
- Going to the bathroom — “Strangely enough, there’s a reflex that happens that people can get lightheaded, especially if they’re having a bowel movement and bearing down really hard. That’s a well-described reason to get dizzy and lightheaded,” McGowan says.
- Coughing — during the COVID-19 pandemic, people would sometimes cough to the point where they would pass out, she notes.
- Low blood sugar.
- Standing up too quickly — orthostatic hypotension is a drop in blood pressure that happens when a person rises from lying down to standing. This can cause lightheadedness in some people. In postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), the lightheadedness also comes with a rapid increase in heartbeat.
- Taking medications or supplements that might impact blood pressure. Delta-8 THC, the over-the-counter gummy Clark took for pain relief, can lead to low blood pressure, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safe use, the agency notes. Loss of consciousness in patients who consumed delta-8 THC products is among the adverse events reported to the FDA.
- Heart rhythm problems — this is a much more serious cause of passing out, and people can faint with no warning, McGowan says. It’s much more common in older people or patients with heart disease.
If you start feeling like you are about to pass out, it’s best to immediately sit down or lie down if you are able to, McGowan advises. That helps to get the blood back to the brain and minimizes the chances of getting injured if you were to lose consciousness.Clark, the woman who fainted in March, says her scars have healed and she is back to normal. But she's still shaken by what she experienced, especially the tunnel vision.
"If the sides of your vision start going black or getting blurry, I don’t care where you’re at. You want to get as close to the ground as possible," she says.