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 even death.
Signs and symptoms of shock vary depending on circumstances and may include:
- Cool, clammy skin
- Pale or ashen skin
- Rapid pulse
- Rapid breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Enlarged pupils
- Weakness or fatigue
- Dizziness or fainting
- Changes in mental status or behavior, such as anxiousness or agitation
Seek emergency medical care
If you suspect a person is in shock, call 911 or your local emergency number. Then immediately take the following steps:
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- Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly, unless you think this may cause pain or further injury.
- Keep the person still and don't move him or her unless necessary.
- Begin CPR if the person shows no signs of life, such as breathing, coughing or movement.
- Loosen tight clothing and, if needed, cover the person with a blanket to prevent chilling.
- Don't let the person eat or drink anything.
- If you suspect that the person is having an allergic reaction, and you have access to an epinephrine autoinjector, use it according to its instructions.
- If the person is bleeding, hold pressure over the bleeding area, using a towel or sheet.
- If the person vomits or begins bleeding from the mouth, turn him or her onto a side to prevent choking, unless you suspect a spinal injury.
- 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. 17, 2015.
- Shock — The domino effect. American Red Cross. http://www.redcross.org/email/safetynet/v1n4/shock.asp. Accessed Feb. 17, 2015.
- Subbarao I, et al., eds. American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care. New York: Random House; 2009. Accessed July 21, 2017.
- Piazza GM, et al. First Aid Manual. 3rd ed. London, England; New York, N.Y.: DK Publishing; 2009. Accessed July 21, 2017.
- Campbell RL, et al. Anaphylaxis: Emergency treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 21, 2017.