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Home Health Library Shock: First aid

Shock: First aid

How to recognize, get help for and provide first aid for shock.

Overview

Shock is a critical condition brought on by the sudden drop in blood flow through the body. Shock may result from trauma, heatstroke, blood loss or an allergic reaction. It also may result from severe infection, poisoning, severe burns or other causes.

Shock keeps organs from getting enough blood or oxygen. If shock is not treated, it can lead to permanent organ damage or even death.

When to seek emergency care

If you suspect a person is in shock, call 911 or your local emergency number.

Symptoms

Symptoms of shock vary depending on circumstances and may include:

  • Cool, clammy skin.
  • Pale or ashen skin.
  • A gray or bluish tinge to lips or fingernails.
  • Rapid pulse.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Enlarged pupils.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Changes in mental status or behavior, such as anxiousness or agitation.

Treatment

After calling 911 or your local emergency number, take the following steps right away:

  • Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly, unless you think this may cause pain or further injury.
  • Keep the person still.
  • Begin CPR if the person shows no signs of life, such as not breathing, coughing or moving.
  • Loosen tight clothing and, if needed, cover the person with a blanket to prevent chilling.
  • If the person vomits or is bleeding from the mouth, and no spinal injury is suspected, turn the person onto a side to prevent choking.

What to avoid

  • Don't let the person eat or drink anything.
  • Don't move the person unless it's needed.
Last Updated: April 16th, 2024