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Treating Shock

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Shock is a serious condition in which the organs are not receiving enough blood for oxygen supply. Shock can be brought on by a wide range of causes, from physical trauma, blood loss, allergic reactions, infections, burns, spinal injury, or a heatstroke. This is a severe condition, and shock can quickly lead to permanent organ damage or death. In the event of someone around you going into shock, a quick response can be all the difference between permanent organ damage and a successful recovery, or life and death.

A common cause of shock is sepsis. In this case, you need to seek medical treatment immediately.


Someone in shock may feel cool to the touch and look drained. Their skin is often described as being clammy.

They may be extremely pale with enlarged pupils and rapid, shallow breathing. If you take their pulse, you may notice it is substantially elevated. Hypotension (low blood pressure) is common in shock cases.

 In some cases, the individual will be nauseated and actively vomiting. They may feel extremely weak and fatigued. Other times, they may be mentally unstable, acting very anxious and agitated.


Cardiogenic shock can cause many wide-ranging symptoms, as depicted below:

Shock can cause death through cardiac arrest and hypoxia. Pictured here is a symptom strongly suggesting the onset of hypoxia.

If you see someone in shock, you need to immediately alert emergency medical services. To buy time, there is some initial first aid you can administer, but this is by no means a fix to the issue.

Steps you can take

  1. Assess the situation. Understand what has caused the shock so that you can properly treat them. If it will not cause further injury, lay the individual down on their back and elevate the legs and feet a bit.
  2. Minimize movement. Keep the person still.
  3. If the individual is unresponsive, shows no signs of life, and stops showing any signs of breathing, such as coughing or movement, administer CPR.
  4. If the individual is in tight clothing, loosen it. If the person is showing signs of having a dropping internal temperature, such as being very cool to the touch, cover them with a blanket or extra clothing.
  5. Do not feed or give the individual anything to drink. People in shock should not eat or drink anything. This could lead to them choking which could only make symptoms worse.
  6. If you have an epinephrine pen available, and you believe the shock to be caused by an allergic reaction, then administer the epi pen according to its instructions.
  7. If the individual is bleeding, reduce the amount by as much as possible. Apply pressure if the wound is in the head or trunk. If it is an extremity injury, make a tourniquet.
  8. If the individual is vomiting, and you do not suspect any form of injury to the spine, turn them on their side to prevent choking. If you suspect an injury to their spine, do not move them.