Reverse Engineering: Fainting Fancies

December 2012 Prof. Scarlet Leslie

Look at that adorable miniature cake with two-tone fondant icing! It must taste delicious... But wait! That two-tone coloring reminds me of something... the Skiving Snackbox! This little cake actually packs quite the punch. Fainting Fancies will literally knock you out.

Syncope is the medical term for fainting. It typically occurs when there is not enough blood flow to the brain, causing a person to lose consciousness. Several factors predispose people to fainting, such as a irregular heart beat or loss of blood volume, including dehydration. Certain medications that help regulate blood pressure also increase the possibility of syncope. Sometimes, standing up too quickly from a sitting or lying position results in fainting. The body does not have enough time to make the heart beat faster and pump the blood into the brain due to the rapid change in body position. This is known as postural hypotension and is more common in older people. It is easily avoided by taking extra time and standing up slowly.

There are also chemical causes of fainting, which is probably what the Weasley twins exploited. In vasovagal syncope, the balance between two chemicals found in the body, adrenaline and acetylcholine, is disrupted. As you might guess, adrenaline stimulates the body. This includes making the heart beat faster and making blood vessels narrower to increase blood pressure. Acetylcholine does the opposite. When acetylcholine is released, the heart rate slows down and blood vessels become wider. When acetylcholine is continuously released by the vagus nerve, heart rate and blood pressure drop so much that the body cannot pump the blood to the brain. A few reasons why the vagus nerve would be stimulated are pain, hearing bad news, sight of blood, or seeing a hot movie star.

Just some warnings about using a Fainting Fancy. Fainting is definitely not a pleasant experience. You may feel lightheaded, develop blurry vision, and feel like the room is spinning. You may even grow sweaty, weak, and feel tingling sensations. When recovering from a faint, some people experience confusion for a few seconds. The most serious consequences after fainting occur when the head hits something hard, such as the floor or wall, and may result in a concussion. So, when you do decide to use a Fainting Fancy, be sure have a few of your friends practice a Cushioning Charm to protect your head.

The main treatments for syncope are preventative, such as recognizing and avoiding triggers or altering heart structure. It is believed that ice or cold water is helpful to help a person recover from fainting. I'd like to think that the healing end of Fainting Fancies gives a cool burst in the mouth. Since the person is unconscious, the Fainting Fancy must be in a rapidly dissolving form that is quickly absorbed into the body through a fast route. The buccal route, the inside of the cheek, is a prime choice.

Excess acetylcholine in the sick end and a rapidly dissolving healing end are the key components of Fainting Fancies. With that, I give you the conclusion of Skiving Snackbox reverse engineering. Don't look so shocked! You might faint!