fainting during dissections

Fainting during dissections: I have read your SOPs on dissections. Could you include fainting as one of the hazards of the activity? How should students be prepared for what they are going to do? What signs of imminent fainting should students and teacher watch out for?

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Publication Date: 05 June 2015
Asked By: Anonymous
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fainting during dissections

Before a dissection:

When planning a class dissection activity, it is best to discuss beforehand, the type of dissection to be undertaken (i.e., heart, lung, kidney rat etc.) and warn of the possibility there may be some blood present during the dissection.

Let students know they don’t have to participate in the dissection and can be excused from the class.

Alternative arrangements can be made for students who don’t wish to participate through giving them worksheets to complete and relocating them to a private study area.

Demonstrating the dissection to students before they begin is helpful, not only for correct procedure, but it allows them to adjust to the appearance of the material, and any blood that may be present after dissection material has been washed.

Always ensure adequate room ventilation by opening windows and doors or using mechanical ventilation.


‘Fainting is a brief episode of unconsciousness caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. Common causes include heat, pain or distress. If you feel faint, lie down and elevate your feet. You can get up slowly after ten minutes. If a person doesn't recover quickly, always seek urgent medical attention. The collapse could have been triggered by a more serious event such as a cerebral haemorrhage (stroke)’.i

Signs and symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • A pale face
  • Perspiration
  • Heightened anxiety and restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Collapse
  • Unconsciousness, for a few seconds
  • Full recovery after a few minutesi

If fainting occurs: If students start to feel faint, dizzy or nauseous during the dissection, lie them down, if possible, and elevate their feet. Sending them outside for some fresh air can also help.

Note: Do not sit the patient on a chair with head between knees’ii

Refer to school first aid officer and seek medical attention if symptoms persist.

More information on fainting can be found in the latest copy of ‘Australian First Aid’ St John Ambulance Australia, and at the website below.

Better Health Channel State Government of Victoria: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fainting (Link updated October 2017)


Better Health Channel State Government of Victoria: iihttps://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fainting (Link updated October 2017)

iiSt John Ambulance Australia. (2011). Australian First Aid. Barton, ACT

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