FIRST AID: What to do when someone goes into shock

This will help improve circulation to vital organs
This will help improve circulation to vital organs
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Shock – not to be confused with emotional shock - is a life-threatening condition, which happens when the body isn’t getting enough oxygen to the vital organs.

It 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 severe infection

• 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

• Casualty could become unresponsive

What you need to do

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

n You then need to help the casualty to lie down. Raise the casualties’ legs, supporting them on a chair, as this will help to improve the blood supply to their vital organs. If available, lay them down on a rug or blanket to protect them from the cold

n Call 999 or 112 for emergency help and tell ambulance control you think they are in shock. If possible, explain what you think caused the shock

n Loosen any tight clothing around the neck, chest and waist to make sure it doesn’t constrict their blood flow

n While waiting for help to arrive cover them with a coat or blanket, to help keep them warm. Remember, fear and pain can make shock worse by increasing the body’s demand for oxygen, so try to reassure the casualty and keep them calm if you can

n Monitor their level of response. If they become unresponsive at any point prepare to treat an unresponsive casualty.

For those looking for quick, easily accessible first aid information, go to For more information about first aid courses please call 0303 003 0101.