First Aid Advice For Detecting And Treating Vertigo


Table of Contents

What Is That Dizzy Feeling

 Vertigo is a word everyone has heard bandied about at some point, but what is it, and why is it so debilitating? How do you know you have it, and how do you treat it?

What Is The Main Cause Of Vertigo

Vertigo is commonly caused by a problem with the way the inner ear fluid operates, although it can also be caused by problems in certain parts of the brain. Causes may include (BPPV) benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. A condition in which certain head movements trigger vertigo, migraines, and severe headaches.

Vertigo is frequently caused by an imbalance in the Eustachian tubes giving the sufferer the sense of being off balance even when they are not. If you have ever been spun around several times and then told to walk a straight line, you know how incredibly difficult that is to achieve. Vertigo is pretty much the same without being spun around to achieve dizziness. Vertigo isn’t a disease. Rather, it’s a symptom of varying conditions.

You should call emergency services on 000 in Australia if the person loses consciousness or has:

  • Non-stop vomiting
  • Cannot stand or walk due to the dizziness

Has symptoms that are not consistent with BPPV, including:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • A head injury
  • Headache or stiff neck
  • Signs of stroke include a change in vision, speech, or mobility.
  • Convulsions
  • Fever over 39C 

How Long Does An Episode Of Vertigo Last

On average, vertigo attacks can last several seconds to several minutes. In severe cases, however, people can experience the sensation for hours, days, weeks or even months. The condition might come and go several times in an hour or day, then vanish for months before reappearing. There is no hard and fast rule or specific trigger for vertigo occurring in most people.

Preventing Or Relieving Dizziness From Vertigo

Having vertigo can be debilitating for the person suffering from the condition as it prevents them from being at normal standing height or doing their normal daily activities. If it is their first time experiencing the sensation, the following First Aid tips will benefit them. If they are seasoned sufferers, they will know what to do and are not “lying down on the job”.

  • Suggest the person lies down and rests until the dizziness passes.
  • The person should avoid making sudden changes in their body position from lying down flat to sitting up suddenly. Any movement should be undertaken slowly and cautiously, keeping low and close to the ground.
  • Tell the person to avoid abrupt head movements, especially looking upwards or downwards. Try to keep their head stationary as the fluid movement in the eustachian tube will cause dizziness and possibly nausea.

What Are The Two Different Types Of Vertigo

There are two main types:

Peripheral vertigo: This happens when there is a problem or condition of the inner ear.

Central vertigo: This occurs when there is an issue with the brain. Causes can include infection, brain tumours, traumatic brain injury or stroke.

Who Does Vertigo Affect

Vertigo attacks are more common in people over 65. They can develop in children or at any stage in life. Women are somewhat more prone to experiencing vertigo than men. Some women will experience vertigo as a side effect of pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester. Vertigo will accompany the symptoms of morning sickness and be so debilitating the sufferer is bedridden.

Applying First Aid To Vertigo Patients

Help the person avoid falls by getting them to sit or lie down. Standing with vertigo can induce a faint, and falling from a standing height unconscious can result in head and limb injuries and trauma.   

  • If they must move, have them do so on their hands and knees.
  • If they are nauseous or throwing up, have them lie down on their left side in the recovery position.
  • The person should not drive or operate any form of vehicle or machinery, and if the episode occurs while they are performing such tasks, they should stop immediately.
  • If they cannot walk safely, take them to the nearest emergency room or call 000. More serious brain conditions, like a seizure, aneurysm or tumour, might be at play.

 When To Visit Your GP

A health care provider should check you if you have any unusual medical situations arise. If you experience dizziness sensations for the first time or if any new signs and symptoms of vertigo appear or increase in intensity from previous episodes.  

Your GP will do a focused physical exam that will include parts of the neurological exam that focus on balance and the inner ear. This exam may include hearing and balance tests and possibly a CT or MRI scan to see what is happening and rule out other possible conditions.

The most common and effective treatment is called particle repositioning manoeuvres (Epley manoeuvre). A form of physical therapy for the inner ear, it can be done in the outpatient setting and continued at home, meaning there is no hospitalisation.

Vertigo can be scary, but the condition itself isn’t considered life-threatening or serious. However, it can be linked to other potentially serious health conditions that are considered potentially fatal if left undiagnosed or untreated. You should always book an assessment with your GP or healthcare provider if you experience recurrent or prolonged attacks or any of the above symptoms.

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