Shock First Aid: Condition, Treatments, and First Aid Guide

First Aid Training

The word “shock” can be linked to several meanings. First, it may refer to a psychological response from a traumatic experience. Next, it can be a physiological outcome when there is an impaired process in the body.

In most cases, shock is attributed to the psychological circumstances after a traumatic event. This shock is often referred to as acute distress disorder. However, this guide will focus on the physiological aspect of shock.

Shock is an emergency situation, and if you feel like the situation can get worse any minute, calling a private ambulance service is largely helpful in saving someone’s life.

Read on to learn all about shock, how to deal with it, the proper first-aid response when someone suffers from shock, and how you can prevent it.

For additional information on first-aid treatment, you can check our standard first-aid courses.

What is Shock?

Shock is a condition that occurs when there is not enough blood that circulates all over the body, affecting the organs and tissues and hindering them from functioning normally.

The shock comes as a result of an injury or an illness that affects the natural blood flow in the system. Shock can cause multiple organ failure and other complications that are a cause for medical concern.

Shock can result in death.

What Causes Shock?

Any condition that can potentially disrupt the normal blood flow can result in shock. These conditions include:

  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Significant blood loss
  • Heart failure
  • Blood infections
  • Dehydrations
  • Poisoning
  • Severe burns

What are the Symptoms of Shock?

When a person goes into shock, they may manifest the following indicators of shock:

  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chest pains
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Decrease in urine levels
  • Low blood sugar
  • Loss of unconsciousness

Types of Shock

There are 4 known major types of shock. Each type of shock can be classified into the following depending on the events that caused them.

Obstructive shock

This type of shock occurs when the blood cannot go where it has to go. Conditions that produce a buildup of air or fluid in the chest cavity can cause obstructive shock. These conditions include:

  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pneumothorax
    A condition in which the lungs have collapsed
  • Hemothorax
    A condition in which the blood collects in the space between the chest wall and lung.
  • Cardiac tamponade
    A condition where the blood or other fluids fill the space between the sac or membrane around the heart and the heart muscle

Cardiogenic shock

This type of shock occurs when damages to the heart reduce the flow of blood to your body. These damages may be in the form of:

  • Damage to the heart muscle
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Very slow heart rhythm

Distributive shock

This type of shock occurs when the blood vessels lose their form and become open. When this happens, there is not enough blood pressure that gets distributed to the organs. Indicators of distributive shock include flushing, low blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.

Distributive shock may come in different forms. These include:

  • Anaphylactic shock
    This type of distributive shock comes from a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis incidents are usually triggered by food, insect bites and venoms, and medications. Anaphylactic shock is dangerous and requires immediate medical help.
  • Septic shock
    This type of distributive shock is triggered by sepsis, a condition where bacteria entering the bloodstream leads to an infection. When too much damage to the tissues and organs has been done, septic shock occurs.
  • Neurogenic shock
    This type of distributive shock comes as a result of damages to the central nervous system, particularly an injury to the spinal cord. These damages slow the heart rate and trigger the blood pressure to drop. Intoxication from drugs and other brain injuries can both bring about distributive shock.

Hypovolemic shock

This type of shock happens when there is a shortage of blood in the blood vessels to distribute oxygen to your organs. Hypovolemic shock often occurs when the person suffers from severe blood loss brought about by injuries.

Intense dehydration can also lead to hypovolemic shock.

Shock Diagnosis

Shock is often recognised from the external symptoms listed above. However, medical professionals may also look for low blood pressure, weak pulse, and rapid heartbeat, which are all signs of shock.

If a person has been diagnosed with shock, initial treatment includes getting the blood circulating within the body immediately. Supportive care, lots of fluid and blood products, as well as medications can all help get proper blood flow back. However, it is still important to find out the cause of the problem once the person is in stable condition.

Several tests may be done in order to determine the cause of the shock.

Imaging tests

To assess damages on the tissues and organs, an imaging test may be performed. These imaging tests include:

  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Typically, these imaging tests may reveal injuries like:

  • Bone fractures
  • Organ ruptures
  • Tears on the muscles or tendon
  • Abnormal growths

Blood Tests

Blood tests may also be needed to determine shock causes. The medical professionals may look for indications like blood loss, infections present in the blood, as well as drug or medication overdose.

Treatment for Shock

You can tell someone has fallen into shock when they become unconscious, experience breathing difficulties, or suffer cardiac arrest.

The important thing to do when someone falls into shock is to seek medical help as soon as possible.

First Aid-Treatment for Shock

While waiting for medical help to arrive, there are some things you can do to keep them safe.

  1. If the person is unconscious, observe if they are breathing and have a heartbeat.
  2. If there is no breathing nor heartbeat detected, perform CPR.
  3. If they are breathing, lay them on their back.
  4. Make sure to put their feet in an elevated position, at least 12 inches above. This allows their blood to get directed to the vital organs that need it.
  5. Cover them with a blanket to maintain their body temperature.
  6. Monitor their breathing and heart rate from time to time. Note down changes if there are any.
  7. If you think that the person has sustained injuries on their head, neck, or back, refrain from moving them.
  8. For any noticeable wounds, try to apply the first-aid treatment.
  9. If the person shows signs of allergic reactions, administer an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) to alleviate the symptoms of allergy.
  10. If the person begins to vomit, turn them sideways so that their vomit drains properly and that they don’t choke.

Medical Treatment

The treatment that will be given to the patient will depend on the cause of the shock as each type of shock is given a different treatment. Here are the most commonly used forms of treatment:

  • Epinephrine and other medications that work on anaphylactic shock
  • Blood transfusions to put healthy blood circulation back and treat hypovolemic shock
  • Heart surgery and medications for cardiogenic shock
  • Antibiotics for septic shock

Prevention for Shock

Shock can be prevented. Mostly, adjustments in lifestyle and adopting healthy practices can help in the prevention of shock occurrence.

For people who have been diagnosed with allergies, avoiding triggers helps a lot in preventing shock. Furthermore, carrying life-saving devices like an EpiPen greatly helps in alleviating minor allergic reactions and preventing them from escalating into shock.

For physical activities like riding a bike and engaging in contact sports, wearing protective clothing and gear prevents injuries that can lead to lots of blood loss. Wearing a seatbelt and helmets when riding vehicles like cars or motorcycles is also imperative for safety.

To reduce your risk of heart damages, adhere to a well-balanced diet, try to stay active and exercise regularly, and quit smoking.

It also helps if you maintain your hydration levels. Drink lots of water and other fluids, especially if the weather is hot.

Frequently Asked Questions

When a person falls into shock, their organs do not receive enough oxygen because proper blood circulation is constricted. When the organs do not receive oxygen through the blood, multiple organ failures can happen.

When a person falls into shock, their organs do not receive enough oxygen because proper blood circulation is constricted. When the organs do not receive oxygen through the blood, multiple organ failures can happen. Obstructive shock is the least common type of shock.

Shock can be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding triggers, and making necessary changes like quitting smoking and exercising regularly.

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