ammonia capsules for fainting?

  1. Do all nurses think ammonia capsules need to be used every time a patient gets faint?

    I have fainted three times, I know what it feels like. Fainting lasts ?? a few seconds and as soon as the head goes down, blood flow goes "up" to the brain, and it is over.

    Let us assume I have special powers, I know the patient is "just" fainting, vaso-vagal, no "serious" medical issue is going on. I wouldn't use ammonia.

    I can see it being useful if you are walking with the patient and want to prevent a fall, but if there is not a fall, self-harm, issue I wouldn't use one. Would you?

  2. Visit brownbook profile page

    About brownbook

    Joined: Jul '06; Posts: 2,511; Likes: 5,223
    from CA , US


  3. by   XB9S
    have never used ammonia for a patient fainting.
  4. by   Flare
    I worked on an ortho unit where it was very common for people to faint -especially their first time up after surgery. We kept an ammonia inhalant tped to darned near every doorway and most of us would keep one in the pocket. You would just know the look on the patient's face once they started moving and knew they were going to go out on you. The ammonia inhalant if administered at that moment would more often than not snap them out of their near syncope and physival therapy or whatever was going on would usually be able to conitune with no problems. Even for patients that have a full fledged fainitng spell - many would take much longer to snap out of it in they didn't have the sensory stimulation. Granted, i know - ammonia fumes can be toxic, but the amount that an inhalant puts out is very small and the idea is to pass once or twice under the nose, not bathe the person's face in fumes.
    Is it necessary for every patient? - probably not - like you said, fainiting usually resolves itself in a few minutes. I would not use an inhalant for a patient with a suspected head injury (i.e. patient that has fallen and hit head, person knocked unconscious playing a sport ir during a fight), but for a garden variety fainting spell i think it's not a bad tool to have at hand.
  5. by   brownbook
    Thanks to both of you. Even though your comments are almost opposite, they both make sense.

    Thinking about my fainting I don't know how long I was "out." Two times I was alone. I imagine it is like post-op patients who so frequently wake up from anesthesia and say "that was so quick," when the surgery was 2 hours!! (No I don't think I was out for 2 hours!)
  6. by   ObtundedRN
    I find the use of it kinda funny. In my EMS training we were taught to never use ammonia inhalents because it could trigger or worsen respiratory distress. I've never used one as a nurse thought either. The only time I saw one used by a nurse was one night in the ED, a nurse used one on a patient I brought in (when I still worked EMS). I'm just curious is ammonia inhalents are best practice or contrary to it?
  7. by   Flo.
    I have never used it. In fact I thought that was just something they did on TV!
  8. by   canoehead
    I used it once as an OB nurse. The patient passed out in the bathroom and needed enough strength to stand and get to the wheelchair, plus was bleeding all over. It was important to get her in bed where I could massage her fundus, and privacy was an issue. I would have had to leave the room to get help too. Generally though, I think ammonia is cruel, and would be more likely to wait for the patient to come around, or call for help lifting.
  9. by   nurse2033
    Some people believe this is a totally inappropriate, even abusive, practice. Whether or not you believe that, ammonia is not therapeutic in nature. I have seen it used mostly to see if someone is faking unconsciousness. If it is used for that purpose it is being used for the practitioner's benefit, not the patient. For that reason I've never used it myself. You have to look at why you are using it, and if could you treat the patient in a better way instead?
  10. by   sevensonnets
    I have asthma and ammonia is a major trigger for me. I'd end up on the vent if somebody stuck that under my nose just because I got a little light-headed. Not a good idea at all. I've never used ammonia or seen it used in all my years of practice.
  11. by   hiddencatRN
    We were taught in school never to use ammonia capsules- I thought it was a completely outdated practice.
  12. by   Altra
    Even if I vaso-vagal 9 times, I sincerely hope no one "assumes" I'm vaso-vagaling the 10th time when I'm actually having my MI, or throwing my PE, or experiencing the onset of my CVA.
  13. by   ValDonovan
    I ran with an ambulance company 20 years ago and we used amonia caps on the truck. Especially when we got the "fakers" that were just looking for attention. After we popped an amonia cap and cupped it over their face, they always "miraculously" regained consciousness and were A&O x3 with no complaint.
  14. by   USIJurgy
    They can play opossum all they want- no reason to shove ammonia in their face. A trick we use to determine if someone is "faking" is to place their arm above their head, bend their elbow and have their hand in front of their face. Once you let go of the arm gravity should do it's job and their hand should hit their face. If the hand, after multiple attepts, continues to fall above their head or below their face it is a good indicator that they have voluntary muscle control- who wants to hit themselves in the face?!