Shock may result from trauma, heatstroke, blood loss, an allergic reaction, severe infection, poisoning, severe burns or other causes. When a person is in shock, his or her organs aren't getting enough blood or oxygen. If untreated, this can lead to permanent organ damage or death.
Various signs and symptoms appear in a person experiencing shock:
- The skin is cool and clammy. It may appear pale or gray.
- The pulse is weak and rapid. Breathing may be slow and shallow, or hyperventilation (rapid or deep breathing) may occur. Blood pressure is below normal.
- The person may be nauseated. He or she may vomit.
- The eyes lack luster and may seem to stare. Sometimes the pupils are dilated.
- The person may be conscious or unconscious. If conscious, the person may feel faint or be very weak or confused. Shock sometimes causes a person to become overly excited and anxious.
If you suspect shock, even if the person seems normal after an injury:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Have the person lie down on his or her back with feet about a foot higher than the head. If raising the legs will cause pain or further injury, keep him or her flat. Keep the person still.
- Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement) and if absent, begin CPR.
- Keep the person warm and comfortable by loosening any belts or tight clothing and covering the person with a blanket. Even if the person complains of thirst, give nothing by mouth.
- Turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking if the person vomits or bleeds from the mouth.
- Seek treatment for injuries, such as bleeding or broken bones.
- What to do in a medical emergency: Shock. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/WhatToDoInMedicalEmergency/Default.aspx?id=270. Accessed Feb. 4, 2012.
- Shock — The domino effect. American Red Cross. http://www.redcross.org/email/safetynet/v1n4/shock.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2012.