The president was watching the Baltimore-Miami National Football League playoff game alone at about 5:35 p.m. ET in the White House residence when the incident occurred.
The president fell to the floor and hit the side of his face, leaving a scrape on his cheek from his glasses and a bruised lower lip.
“I hit the deck,” the president said about his fall. He said he thinks he was only unconscious for a few seconds. “[I] woke up and there was [dogs] Barney and Spot showing a lot of concern.”
First Lady Laura Bush was in a nearby room in the residence at the time.
Mr. Bush was examined thoroughly immediately after the incident and again this morning.White House physician Richard J. Tubb said neurological, cardiopulmonary and laboratory examinations had normal results.
“All the laboratory exams came back normal,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. “Dr. Tubb said he did not find any reason to think it was serious.”
He said the pretzel could have stimulated the vagus nerve, which runs up the neck and regulates the heart rate, and that this could have caused the president to faint.
The president, an active jogger, has very low blood pressure, which can make fainting easier. He was also fighting a head cold this weekend, which his physician said could have contributed to the episode.
The medical term for the action is “neurally mediated vasovagal syncope”. The body sends a signal to the heart via the vagus nerve, slowing heart rate enough that the person briefly loses consciousness.
President Bush, 55, was pronounced “in outstanding health” after a six-hour physical last August.
The president told reporters he felt great as he boarded a helicopter this morning for a two-day trip to the Midwest. He joked about the incident, sending a bag of pretzels to the press corps on Air Force One with a sign that said “chew slowly.”
He began a speech to 1,500 John Deere Plant workers this morning saying, “always chew your pretzels before you swallow.”