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First Aid: Shock

Shock occurs when the body’s supply of oxygen-carrying blood to vital organs decreases. Without enough oxygen to fuel its parts, the body can’t function properly and death may occur. In many cases, first aid can only slow the progression of this life-threatening condition.

Call 911 at the first sign of shock.

 

Signs of Shock

  • The skin or the pink tissue inside the lower lip may turn pale.

  • The skin may feel cold and damp.

  • The pulse may be so light or race so fast that you can’t count the beats.

  • The victim may be confused or unable to concentrate or may stare blankly. Over time, the victim may even become unconscious.

Man lying on ground on back. First aid giver has covered man with coat, supported man's head with rolled-up cloth, and raised man's legs on box. First aid giver is holding cloth to wound on man's leg.

1. Treat Threats to Life

  • If victim is unconscious but breathing, position the head and neck to keep the airway open.

  • Perform CPR, if needed.

  • Control any severe bleeding to help keep shock from worsening. (Wear gloves or use other protection to avoid contact with victim’s blood.)

2. Care for Shock

  • Place victim on his or her back with both feet raised about 12 inches, helping to send blood to the heart, lungs, and brain. (Do this only if there are no possible broken bones or possible hip, back, or head injury.)

  • Cover victim to maintain body temperature only.

  • Keep victim quiet. Speaking uses oxygen and worsens the effects of shock.

  • Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink.

 

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