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first aid for shock

Shock occurs when blood flow throughout the body is decreased and the body tissues don't get enough oxygen. This lack of oxygen causes injury to many body systems. There may be brain, kidney, or heart damage; loss of a limb; and intestinal problems.

What are the signs and symptoms of the injury? 
A person suffering from shock may have one or more of the following symptoms: What are the causes and risks of the injury? 
There are many causes for shock, including: Shock is a life-threatening condition and requires emergency medical treatment immediately.

What can be done to prevent the injury? 
Some cases of shock can be prevented by keeping heart disease and diabetes under control. A person with severe diarrhoea or vomiting, infection, or a head injury should be seen by a doctor.

How is the injury recognised? 
Shock is usually diagnosed by seeing a pattern of change in a person's vital signs. The vital signs include pulse, blood pressure, and breathing. The vital sign pattern used to diagnose shock includes: Some blood tests can also help show some of the signs of shock. It is the complete picture that gives a diagnosis of shock rather than a single vital sign or laboratory test.

What are the treatments for the injury? 
First aid treatment of a person in shock includes the following steps:
  • Check for signs of circulation, such as normal breathing, coughing, or movement in response to stimulation.
  • Contact the emergency medical system immediately.
  • Start cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, if the person stops breathing. Use 15 chest compressions for every 2 mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths.
  • Stay with the person until medical assistance arrives.
  • Do not let the person eat or drink anything.
What are the side effects of the treatments? 
The chest compressions of CPR can cause vomiting, injuries to internal organs, or broken ribs. Vomiting can be a problem if the vomit is caught in the airway and inhaled into the lungs.

What happens after treatment for the injury? 
Treatment for the effects of shock or for the underlying condition that caused the shock may last a few months or years, or it may need to be continued for the person's entire life.

Author: James Broomfield, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

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