What is shock?

A lack of oxygen and essential nutrients reaching the tissues

Shock is a medical emergency which can be caused by severe blood loss. The casualty does not receive enough oxygen and other essential nutrients due to the loss of blood. Remember that blood is the major transport mechanism in the body. If you've lost half your blood volume (and its on the floor in a puddle) then that blood isn't available to transport oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. In addition the blood isn't available to transport harmful waste products so these can build up.

How to recognise shock

Signs & symptoms of shock include:

  • Pale, cold and clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness (reducing level of consciousness)
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Fast, shallow breathing

If a casualty has lost a lot of blood, you should be looking for signs and symptoms of shock.

First aid treatment for shock

If you suspect a casualty is suffering from shock then you should:

  1. Control any blood loss (think PEEP from the last unit)
  2. Lie the casualty down and raise their legs if possible
  3. Cover the casualty with a coat or blanket to keep them warm
  4. Call for emergency medical help

Do not give the casualty anything to eat or drink! Stay with them until medical help arrives. If the casualty becomes unconscious / unresponsive then you should place them into the recovery position. If they stop breathing normally then commence CPR

Video: First aid for shock




John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid & CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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