Fainting: Benign Or A Sign?

Hilary Clinton says the fainting spell she experienced Monday was associated with a "24-hour bug" and was no big deal.

And The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay tends to agree.

"Sure. It makes sense," Senay told co-anchor Rene Syler. "When you get the 24-hour bug, you get dehydrated, and you're standing up and the blood pools in your legs and feet, and before you know it, your brain isn't getting enough blood.

"This is pretty common, and it makes a cohesive and coherent story for what happened to her."

But could it be a sign of something more serious?

"Certainly it could," Senay says. "We don't know anything about her medical history, but it could be the sign of a basic heart problem, or a neurological problem. It could be something with medications, or metabolic problems, such as diabetes, when the blood sugar gets too low. All these things can cause fainting, for sure.

"If it's associated with something like this, a 24-hour bug," Senay continued, "you probably don't have to see a doctor. But if you have other symptoms that accompany a fainting spell, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, trouble with your vision, trouble walking, or any sort of confusion, all these are signs that you need to see a doctor.

And if you faint more than once in a short space of time -- for example, within a month -- you should probably check it out with the doctor.

"Most times," Senay explains, "fainting is completely benign and the natural response to the brain not getting enough blood. So sit down, put your head between your knees or lay down, and you should be OK."