Shock: First aid

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. When a person is in shock, their organs don't get enough blood or oxygen. If shock is not treated, it can lead to permanent organ damage or even death.

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.

Seek emergency medical care

If you suspect a person is in shock, call 911 or your local emergency number. Then 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 and don't move the person unless necessary.
  • 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.
  • Don't let the person eat or drink anything.
  • 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.

Last Updated Apr 21, 2023

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