Feeling woozy? Take note and take action

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Woozy is a tricky word. We use it to describe many symptoms, such as light-headedness, weakness, confusion, instability, maybe even nausea, and feeling like a faint will occur. Wooziness is not spinning, which is vertigo. But feeling lightheaded is real and common, and we need to pay attention to our body’s symptoms.

What causes wooziness

Dehydration and change in blood pressure are common causes of feeling woozy. If your blood pressure drops because perhaps you stood up too quickly, your blood pressure medications were changed/not taken, or you haven’t been keeping up with drinking liquids, you may feel woozy.  Your brain simply is not getting enough blood. Sit or lay down when first feeling weak, and drink water. Raising your hands above your head and clenching and unclenching your fists will also help your pressure rise.

Low blood sugar is simply a lack of fuel to the brain, and a lack of fuel can cause wooziness. Your brain needs sugar to operate. People with diabetes are most at risk if their medication level is incorrect, but it can also happen to borderline undiagnosed diabetics. 

A urinary tract infection can affect your stability, and confusion is common. A UTI is also common with dehydration.

Poor lung function or low blood counts—either of these two prevents enough oxygen from getting to the brain.

Anxiety can affect us in many ways. Shallow breathing and a racing heart can cause wooziness.

An inner ear infection can cause vertigo and cause balance issues, making you feel unsteady.

Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia – a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells, which are the carriers of oxygen. A low level of red blood cells can create light-headedness.

A change in medication, even over-the-counter ones, can create wooziness. Think if you’ve changed or missed any medications.

A heart attack or stroke can create a feeling of fainting and is the most severe reason for wooziness. If accompanied by chest, arm, jaw, or back pain, nausea, or weakness on one side of the body, facial drooping, changes in vision or speaking, call 911 immediately.

Action points

If you suddenly feel woozy, especially if you’ve never felt this way before, don’t panic, but pay attention. You may need immediate attention, but you also may first try drinking water or juice, sitting or lying down, and taking some long breaths. If suspecting low blood sugar, eat hard candy or drink orange juice. If you are a diabetic or pre-diabetic, test your blood sugar, take the recommended medication and consult your doctor if it does not resolve. Rest. Give your body a chance to recuperate. Think of the items above, such as a change in medication, coming down with the flu or cold, underlying anxiety, or being significantly dehydrated. But stay aware of your symptoms.

If you continue to feel unsteady, remain lightheaded and off-balance, or get other symptoms such as nausea or pain, call 911. Do not get up if you feel faint. 

Wooziness can be a sign of either something minor or a more severe problem. Have a plan of action. Hopefully, it resolves simply. If not, let your EMT, ER, or clinic doctor decide.