Shock is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical assistance. It occurs when the body is not able to get enough oxygen to its vital organs. Internal and external bleeding are common causes of shock.
In the human body, three specific conditions are needed to keep the blood flowing properly to deliver oxygen to the vital organs. First, the heart must be working properly to effectively pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Second, there has to be enough blood in the body to supply the vital organs with oxygen. Third, the blood vessels must be intact and able to accommodate and adjust the flow of blood through the body. If even one of these needs is not met, shock can result.
When a vital organ, such as the brain, lungs, or heart does not get enough oxygen-rich blood, they cannot function properly. This malfunction triggers a series of responses in the body that we know as shock. The responses are the body’s way of trying to maintain adequate blood flow through out the body. Shock is a medical emergency and needs immediate medical care. Prolonging medical care can cause a person to die from shock.
When a person is injured or becomes ill suddenly, normal body function can be interrupted. In cases of minor injuries or illnesses, the body normally reacts quickly and there is not a problem, however; with more severe injuries or illnesses, the body may not be able to compensate as quickly as is needed and the result is shock.
Knowing the signs and signals of shock is extremely important to helping a person who is suffering from it to survive. If a person is going into shock, the person may be restless or irritable. The person may feel the need to wander or pace aimlessly and become upset if you try to get them to stop or be still. The person may become irritated at the smallest of things and seemingly for no reason at all. The person may have altered levels of consciousness. One minute, the person may seem to be awake and alert, the next minute, the person make appear sleepy and unresponsive. The person may complain of nausea or may begin to vomit. The person’s skin may appear to be pale, grayish, or flushed, and the skin may feel cool and moist to the touch. The person’s breathing may be rapid and shallow and the pulse may be rapid and weak. The person may complain of being excessively thirsty.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, the very first thing you need to do is call 9-1-1 or your local emergency response number. Do not waste any time because shock can progress quickly and become deadly if not treated. You cannot manage shock effectively be yourself, medical treatment is required. Next, have the person lie down. If the person is restless, this may pose a challenge, but it is important to get them into a lying position to help lessen their pain and enable them to calm down. Pain increases the stress level in the body and can quicken the progression of shock. Do what you can to get the person to lie down and be comfortable. If there is any external bleeding, do what you can to control it. Apply pressure to the site of bleeding to try to get it to stop. If applying pressure does not stop the bleed, and it is safe to do so, elevate the area above the heart. If this does not work, apply pressure to the nearest pressure point. For example, if the forearm is bleeding, apply pressure to the brachial artery in the upper arm. Unless you suspect that the person has a broken bone in the hips or legs, or has an injury to the head, neck, or back, elevate the legs about 12 inches. If you are unsure, have the person lay flat. Help the person to maintain a normal body temperature. If the person is cold, cover them up. Do not allow the person to eat or drink anything. If the person has to have surgery, their best bet is to have an empty stomach to avoid post surgical nausea and complications during surgery. Be sure to stay calm yourself and reassure the person that help is on the way. Stay with the person and monitor their signs of life until help arrives. If necessary, be prepared to give rescue breaths or do CPR.
Shock is a life threatening condition. Knowing the signs and symptoms and acting quickly are all extremely important to the person’s survival. If you think a person is experiencing shock, do not delay, call for help right away.
The information in this article comes from a certified CPR and First Aid instructor.