Shock and how to deal with it

Any injured person can go into shock.  Shock is a life threatening condition that usually results from severe physiological stress and the lack of sufficient blood flow.

Shock starts out in stage one: compensated shock.  During this stage the brain is realizing that something is wrong with the body and beings to route blood to the body’s vital organs.  The second stage of shock is “decompensated shock” where the body has lost too much blood or not enough oxygen is reaching the vital organs.  At this point the body begins to give up and death is very near.  The final stage is irreversible shock.  Once the body reaches this stage all hope of survival is lost.

Shock is most often associated with the following:

  • Blood loss
  • Severe head injury
  • Severe infections (septic shock)
  • Heart failure
  • Severe burns
  • Severe trauma
  • Dehydration
  • Sever allergic reactions (anaphylactic shock)

The following are typical signs and symptoms of shock:

  • Pale, cold, clammy skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness and agitation
  • Disorientation
  • Thirst
  • Bleeding and or blood loss
  • Rapid breathing
  • Blue tinged skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakened pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Unconsciousness

You should treat injured persons as follows:

  • If the victim is conscious, place the victim on a level surface with the legs elevated 6 to 8 inches so that the legs are higher than the heart (this position is called the “shock position”).
  • If the victim is not conscious, place them on their side or stomach with the head turned to one side to prevent choking on vomit, blood, or other fluids.
  • Once the victim is in shock, do not move them.
  • If the victim is wet, remove the wet clothing.
  • If it is cold, use blankets, clothing, or external heat source (another person, hot rocks wrapped in clothing, or fire on either side of the victim) to keep the victim warm.  If it is hot, move the victim to a shaded area and keep them out of the sun.
  • If the victim is conscious, give them small doses of water mixed with salt of sugar.  If the victim is not conscious, do not give them any fluids by mouth.
  • Allow the victim to rest for 24 hours.

Treatment for conscious and unconscious victims

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