By: Dr. Daliah, The Dr Daliah Show
Today was a frightening scene as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton left the 9/11 memorial ceremony today in NYC feeling "overheated" and then appeared to collapse as she was beginning to enter her vehicle.
The video surfacing demonstrates a view of Sec. Clinton originally supported by an aide as she leans against a concrete column. Then the car arrives and she is assisted toward the vehicle and appears to be weak at the onset and then collapse as she enters the vehicle. A spokesperson from the Clinton team reported she had felt overheated and went to her daughter, Chelsea's, apartment to rest. A few hours later she was seen leaving the apartment in good spirits and unaided.
The latest report from her physician states she was suffering from pneumonia as well as may have been "overheated and dehydrated".
What is "overheating"?
In NYC, the temperature this morning was approximately 80 degrees F and close to 40% humidity. "Overheating" or heat-related illness can take place even at this temperature. A short amount of exposure could offset the body temperature and cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, and indeed fainting. Serious heat illness could induce seizures, coma and even death. If an individual is an infant, older, or suffers from medical conditions such as a thyroid disorder, for which Hillary Clinton is being treated, heat related illnesses could be more common and exaggerated.
What is "syncope"?
Syncope, or fainting, is an acute loss of consciousness and muscle strength such that one would fall if not supported. Syncope will usually come on quickly and most commonly occur when a lack of oxygen reaches the brain. Conditions that could cause syncope include those that are cardiac, neurological, and metabolic in nature including vasovagal episodes, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attack, stroke, seizure, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, dehydration, cancer, blood clots, pulmonary issues such as COPD and pneumonia, psychological stress and even heat exhaustion.
How contagious in pneumonia?
When rumors surfaced earlier that Hillary Clinton had pneumonia, concerns were raised on whether people she greeted could have been exposed. Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lung. It may cause lack of oxygen and symptoms such as weakness, cough, fever, shortness of breath, cough and high heart rate. Pneumonia may be caused by a variety of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. Pneumonia can be contagious if the person infected spreads the pathogen by droplet transmission that may occur in sneezing and coughing. However, it is rare to see pneumonia spread among others as many people are regularly exposed to those pathogens and their immune systems may be strong enough to withstand a resulting infection.
Women used to faint all the time. Why doesn't this appear to happen anymore?
As we see in older movies, women would faint repeatedly when there was drama or, as famously depicted in Gone with The Wind, talk of war or topics of a serious nature. I blamed the corsets. But we don't seem to see psychological or even vasovagal fainting as much as we once did. One explanation for this is the salt in our diet. Low blood pressure could cause syncope and our diets consist of so much salt that fewer of us are hypotensive. Another theory could be that many women used to have heavy menstruation untreated in those days, causing low blood pressure and nowadays, we treat this immediately and prevent heavy blood loss with birth control pills. Many of us have also learned not to jump up quickly which can cause orthostatic hypotension, a rapid drop in blood pressure upon rising. Hence we've "evolved" very quickly to stop fainting as often as we once did.
What could be medically wrong with Hillary Clinton?
Even though Hillary Clinton was being treated for pneumonia, a dehydration and overheating episode causing syncope can still plausible. But many have been concerned with her overall health since 2012 when it was reported she sustained a blood clot to the brain. Having a clotting disorder or abnormal heart rhythm could cause unpredictable clots or syncopal episodes. The frequent coughing fits have been difficult to explain as well since it doesn't easily fit into the overall medical puzzle and have been reported as "seasonal allergies". Earlier today it was reported that she was battling pneumonia diagnosed last week.
But then again many of us have endured coughing fits, fainting, blood clots, pneumonia and chugged along fine. Whether Hillary Clinton's health can endure a presidential campaign or future presidency may still remain unclear, even after today's unfortunate events.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network and board certified Family Physician