Emergency advice


  1. Treat the cause of shock.
  2. Lie them down with raised legs.
  3. Call 999.
  4. Loosen tight clothing.
  5. Keep them calm and warm.

What is shock?

Shock can be caused by anything that reduces the flow of blood, such as:

  • severe internal or external bleeding
  • heart problems, such as a heart attack, or heart failure
  • loss of body fluids, from dehydration, diarrhoea, vomiting, or burns
  • severe allergic reactions and overwhelming infection (septic shock)
  • spinal cord injury.

Signs and symptoms

Look for:

  • pale skin, which may be cold and clammy
  • sweating
  • fast pulse - as shock gets worse
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a weak pulse
  • grey blue skin, especially inside the lips
  • nausea and possible vomiting - as the brains oxygen supply decreases
  • restlessness and aggressive behaviour
  • yawning and gasping for air
  • the casualty could become unresponsive.

What to do

  1. Shock first aid - help the casualty to lie down and raise their legs

    Then help the casualty to lie down. Raise the casualty’s legs, supporting them on a chair, as this will help to improve the blood supply to their vital organs.

    • If available, lay them down on a rug or blanket to protect them from the cold.
  2. First aid - call 999 or 112 for emergency help

    Call 999 or 112 for emergency help and tell ambulance control you think they are in shock. If possible, explain what you think caused it.

  3. Shock first aid - loosen any tight clothing

    Loosen any tight clothing around the neck, chest, and waist to make sure it doesn’t constrict their blood flow.

  4. Shock first aid - cover them with a coat or blanket to keep warm

    While waiting for help to arrive, cover them with a coat or blanket to help keep them warm.

    • Remember, fear and pain can make shock worse by increasing the body’s demand for oxygen, so try to reassure the casualty and keep them calm if you can.
  5. Shock first aid - monitor their level of response

    Monitor their level of response.

Browse our first aid products:

First aid dressings, bandages and tape

First aid dressings, bandages and tape

Shop now



Shop now

Our training courses:

First aid courses

First aid courses


Related first aid advice...

How to do the primary survey

Use the primary survey to quickly assess the situation and check the casualty for injuries or conditions that could be immediately life threatening. Find out what to do.

Severe bleeding

When bleeding is severe, it can be dramatic and distressing. Find out what to do.

How to do CPR on an adult

If an adult is unresponsive and not breathing normally, you need to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and start CPR straight away. Learn what to do.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support