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Acute Delirium


Acute delirium

is temporary confusion and change in consciousness. Consciousness is how alert and aware of your surroundings you are. You may have trouble remembering, listening, or doing things you usually do. Acute delirium may be caused by an illness, injury, surgery, medicine, or alcohol or drug use.

Signs and symptoms:

Your symptoms may come and go quickly. You may feel better at times and worse at other times. You or someone close to you may notice any of the following:

  • Fast mood changes, being easily angered, restless, or excited
  • Confusion, such as where you are or what day it is
  • Memory problems, such as forgetting who someone is or things that have just been said
  • False beliefs about yourself and the area around you (delusions)
  • Hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling things that are not real (hallucinations)
  • Trouble paying attention, talking, and thinking
  • Feeling lazy or sleepy, or trouble staying asleep through the night
  • Not caring about what happens around you, or not wanting to eat
  • Slow to think, move, or respond to people

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You want to harm yourself or others.

Seek immediate care if:

  • You cannot eat or drink, and you feel weak or dizzy.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have new or worsening trouble remembering.
  • You have new or worsening trouble sleeping.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


If a medical condition is causing your delirium, your healthcare provider will treat the condition first. He or she may make changes to your current medicines. Extra liquid may be given if you are dehydrated. The liquid may contain sodium or other chemicals if you have an electrolyte imbalance. You may be given liquid nutrition if needed.


  • Talk to counselors. Healthcare providers will work with you to help you feel calm and talk about your thoughts and feelings. They will help you remember where you are. They will work to keep you and those around you safe.
  • Talk to family and friends. Talk to those around you when you feel lonely or sad. Ask for help when you forget the time, place, or names of people around you.
  • Change your surroundings. Keep your home or room quiet and comfortable. Surround yourself with familiar objects. Keep a calendar and clock nearby to remind you of the date and time. Keep pictures of your family and friends nearby. This will help you stay aware of yourself and the area around you. It may also help you feel safe and calm.
  • Take all of your medicines as directed. This will help prevent delirium caused by medicines.
  • Write daily schedules and routines. Record medical appointments, times to take your medicines, meal times, or any other things to remember. Write down reminders to use the bathroom if you have trouble remembering.
  • Eat healthy foods. Healthy foods will help prevent nutrition problems. Examples are fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet. Your healthcare provider may also recommend vitamins or other supplements if needed. Do not take anything without talking to your provider first.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Liquids will help prevent dehydration and constipation.
  • Exercise as directed. Exercise such as walking can help improve your mood and ability to think clearly. Exercise can also help you sleep more easily. Your healthcare provider can help you create a safe exercise plan.
    Walking for Exercise

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Ask for help if you have a drug or alcohol problem. You may need several appointments to see if your treatment is working. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Acute Delirium (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.