Shock is defined as inadequate tissue perfusion, which means that, during shock, the tissues of the body do not receive adequate oxygenation. This is because the brain goes into "survival mode" and shunts as much blood as possible to itself, and other vital organs, leaving the less critical functions of the body under supplied with oxygen-rich blood.
Shock is a potentially lethal condition that can be caused by a number of things. Injuries involving blood loss, burns, significant pain, allergic reactions, or simply fear or neglect can trigger shock in an individual.
If left untreated, shock can progress to the point where the majority of the body’s blood is made unavailable to vital tissues and organs, causing a drop in body temperature, lowered level of consciousness, and ultimately organ failure and death.
Because shock is commonly associated with other types of injury, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of shock while a rescuer is treating a casualty, before it becomes life threatening.
Signs & Symptoms of Shock:
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Pale, cool, and clammy skin
- Weak pulse and rapid breathing
- Pupil dilation
- Confusion and unresponsiveness
- Drowsiness or unconsciousness
First Aid for Shock:
- To assist a casualty experiencing these signs and symptoms, immediately begin treatment by calming and reassuring the casualty.
- Sit or lie the casualty down in a position of comfort on the floor or other firm surface.
- Maintain the casualty’s body heat by placing a blanket around them.
- Continue to monitor the casualty while awaiting the arrival of Emergency Medical Services.
The casualty’s condition can suddenly worsen, so it is important to continue to watch for any changes and be ready to perform CPR if necessary.
Shock can also be caused by an extreme emotion. In this case, the blood vessels dilate, causing blood pressure to drop. Fainting (syncope) is a form of shock and can be caused by a temporary lack of blood to the brain. It is often caused by an extreme emotion such as fear or anxiety. The casualty will usually become conscious again after a few minutes.
Treat the casualty as you would for any type of shock. If there is any doubt or injury, call 911 / EMS.