Shock, not to be confused with emotional shock, is a life-threatening condition. It happens when the body isn’t getting enough oxygen to the vital organs.  

Shock can be caused by anything that reduces the flow of blood, such as: 

  • severe internal or external bleeding 
  • heart problems, such as a heart attack, or heart failure 
  • loss of body fluids, from dehydration, diarrhoea, vomiting, or burns 
  • severe allergic reactions and overwhelming infection (septic shock) 
  • spinal cord injury

What to look for

  • pale skin, which may be cold and clammy 
  • sweating 
  • fast pulse - as shock gets worse 
  • fast, shallow breathing 
  • a weak pulse 
  • grey blue skin, especially inside the lips 
  • nausea and possible vomiting - as the brains oxygen supply decreases 
  • restlessness and aggressive behaviour 
  • yawning and gasping for air 
  • the casualty could become unresponsive


What to do

Follow the steps below:

Step 1 

First, treat any cause of shock that you can see or that you have identified from the primary survey, such as severe bleeding. 

Step 2 

Lay the casualty down on a blanket. Constantly reassure them.

Step 3 

Raise and support their legs to improve blood supply. If the leg is bleeding and the casualty is comfortable, you can raise both legs, if there is a suspected fracture to the pelvis, hip, or either leg, both legs should stay down.

Step 4 

Dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance.

Step 5 

Loosen tight clothing at the neck, chest, and waist.

Step 6 

Keep the casualty warm and reassure them. Do not let them eat or drink. If the casualty is obviously pregnant lean them to their left side to prevent the baby restricting blood flow back to the heart.

Step 7

Monitor the casualty’s breathing and level of response until the emergency services arrive. Be prepared to perform CPR.  

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