Shock

Topic Overview

Shock may develop as the result of sudden illness or injury, or bleeding. When the body cannot get enough blood to the vital organs, it goes into shock. Sometimes even a mild injury will lead to shock.

Shock is a life-threatening condition. If a person develops signs of shock, call 911 or other emergency services and begin home treatment immediately.

Signs of shock include:

  • Passing out (losing consciousness).
  • Feeling very dizzy or lightheaded, like you may pass out.
  • Feeling very weak or having trouble standing up.
  • Being less alert. You may suddenly be unable to respond to questions, or you may be confused, restless, or fearful.

Home Treatment

Prompt home treatment can save the person's life.

  • Call 911 or other emergency services.
  • Have the person lie down. If there is an injury to the head, neck, or chest, keep the legs flat. Otherwise, raise the person's legs at least 12 in. (30 cm).
  • If the person vomits, roll him or her to one side to let fluids drain from the mouth. Use care if there could be an injury to the back or neck.
  • Stop any bleeding (see stopping severe bleeding), and splint any broken bones (see splinting).
  • Keep the person warm but not hot. Put a blanket under the person, and cover him or her with a sheet or blanket, depending on the weather. If the person is in a hot place, try to keep the person cool.
  • Take the person's pulse in case medical staff on the phone need to know what it is. See how to take a pulse. Take it again if the person's condition changes.
  • Try to keep the person calm.

Related Information

Credits

Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Last Updated May 1, 2008

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