Shock (not to be confused with emotional shock) is a
life-threatening condition which happens when the body isn’t
getting enough flow of blood.
This means that the cells don’t get enough oxygen to enable them
to work properly, which can lead to damage of the vital organs like
the brain and the heart.
Shock can be caused by anything that reduces the flow of blood,
• heart problems, such as a heart attack, or heart failure
• severe internal or external bleeding
• loss of body fluids, from dehydration, diarrhoea, vomiting or
• severe allergic reactions and severe infection
If someone has any of the conditions above, which can reduce the
circulation or blood flow, they could develop shock, so you may
need to treat them for this condition as well.
What to look for - shock
If you think somebody could be suffering from shock, there are
seven key things to look for:
- Paleness of the face (pallor)
- Cold, clammy skin
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Fast, weak pulse
- Yawning or sighing
- Loss of response (in extreme cases)
What you need to do - shock
If they are showing signs of shock:
• Lay them down with their head low and legs raised and
supported, to increase the flow of blood to their head. Do not
raise an injured leg.
• Call 999 or 112 for medical help and say you think they
are in shock, and explain what you think caused it (such as
bleeding or a heart attack).
• Loosen any tight clothing around the neck, chest and waist to
make sure it doesn’t constrict their blood flow
• Fear and pain can make shock worse, by increasing the
body’s demand for oxygen, so while you wait for help to arrive,
it’s important to keep them comfortable, warm and calm. Do this by
covering them with a coat or blanket and comforting and reassuring
• Keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of
• If they become unresponsive at any point, open their
airway, check their breathing, and prepare to treat someone who has