Shock is a state in which body organs do not receive adequate amounts of blood and oxygen to maintain their vital functions. Unless corrected quickly, such deprivations can lead to permanent damage to these organs and therefore may lead towards fatal outcomes. However, in certain instances, giving the person in shock the necessary first aid at the right time may prevent fatal outcomes from taking place. Therefore, the aim of this article will be to illustrate some of the basic steps that should be undertaken by a person observing a person in shock until help arrives.
The causes of shock
It is necessary to recognize that shock can be the result of many different causes and one of the commonest forms of shock is known as ‘cardiogenic shock’. It results from a massive failure in the heart muscles probably as a result of sudden ischemic event which deprives the heart muscles of an adequate blood supply. Septic shock on the other hand is the result of severe bacterial infections while anaphylactic shock is the result of a severe allergic reaction. In addition, direct causes of shock can include a severe bleeding, pulmonary embolism, severe vomiting and diarrhea, spinal injuries as well as poisoning.
Symptoms of shock
In most instances of shock, the resulting symptoms and signs would include a rapid and a weak pulse, low blood pressure, dizziness, cold and clammy extremities, bluish lips, dry eyes, the staring look, rapid and shallow breathing as well as feeling faintish or nauseated. At the same time, the person may or may not be conscious during the event.
Initial management of a person in shock: The first aid
When there is a suspicion of shock, one should take measures to lay the person down with the feet held-up at least 25 cm from the level of the heart. However, in instances of suspected spinal injuries, it is better to keep the patient flat and take measures to maintain stillness. In instances of anaphylactic shock in which the person finds it difficult to breathe, many health experts recommend sitting them up when the patient is conscious.
Calling 9-1-1 for assistance should be done without a delay and help should be sorted from anyone who is close-by, if available.
Checking the vital signs such as pulse, breathing and the heartbeat should be performed in order to recognize the need to give CPR and if necessary, CPR should be administered continuously until help arrives.
When a person is suspected of suffering from shock, he or she should not be given any fluids to drink even though the person is awake and complains of thirst. However, if the person is vomiting, it is better to keep the patient on his or her side, as it will prevent aspiration or inhaling the constituents of the vomitus.
Making the person warm should also be considered in a state of shock and this should be done by covering the person in a blanket following loosening the tight clothing and trouser belts.
If there are signs of heavy bleeding from a wound, it is necessary to control the bleeding by applying direct pressure and in the event of a bleeding from limb extremities, one could apply a tourniquet for few minutes at a time to arrest the bleeding. However, it should be remembered that applying a tourniquet continuously for more than 10 minutes would damage the tissues and could lead to outcomes that are more serious.
Although these measures can temporarily prevent the body organs of a person in shock from going to complete failure, it cannot guarantee complete recovery and therefore timely administering of fluids, medications and other medical care along with the severity of the underlying cause would collectively determine the outcome of the person in shock.