February 17, 2013

Fainting at the sight of blood

I remember the day so well because the circumstances were so ridiculous.

It was my freshman year of high school, the Friday before homecoming weekend. Football players and cheerleaders wore their respective uniforms to class, I had a blue pawprint painted on my face, and everyone in class was antsy in anticipation of the pep rally at the end of the day.

Our health teacher put on some Red Cross first aid video to appease our restlessness. Halfway through the video, an actor began "bleeding" profusely from the arm. Just as his friend ripped off a bit of his t-shirt to staunch the blood, I saw a flash of blue jersey out of the corner of my eye.

One of the star football players in my class—a pretty massive beast of a human being—slumped down his chair then lay flat on the floor. He was passed out cold.

Do you get woozy when you see blood? It seems like an oddly dramatic physiological response for just seeing a little red liquid, right? As it turns out, fainting at the sight of blood may be a primitive reflex buried deep in our brain.