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Signs of shock and how to handle it


Shock is defined as a severe physical reaction in the body as the result of trauma, blood loss, allergic reaction, heatstroke, poisoning, severe burns or infection or other causes.

What happens when your body goes into shock is that you experience a sudden drop in blood flow throughout your body, meaning some of your vital organs may not be getting enough blood and therefore oxygen. Untreated, this can lead to permanent organ damage or even death.

The signs of shock vary but can include:

  • Cold, clammy skin

  • A bluish tinge on lips or fingernails (or grey in people with dark skin)

  • Pale or ashen looking skin

  • Rapid breathing or pulse

  • Vomiting and/or nausea

  • Weakness or fatigue

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Severely enlarged pupils

  • Severe anxiety, agitation or other dramatic changes in mental behaviour

If you suspect a person has gone into shock or is about to, always call 000.


While waiting for the ambulance, take these immediate steps:

  • Have the person lay down and elevate their legs and feet slightly, unless this causes them further pain or injury

  • If the person is bleeding, immediately hold pressure over the bleeding area using anything available such as bandages, towels, sheets or clothing

  • If the person shows signs of not breathing or is non-responsive, commence CPR

  • If you suspect an allergic reaction and they have an “epi-pen” use it according to instructions

  • If none of these apply, simply loosen any tight clothing and cover them with a blanket or similar to prevent them getting cold

  • Keep them still and calm, and don’t move them unless absolutely necessary

  • If the person does begin vomiting or begins bleeding from the mouth (a possible sign of internal bleeding) and you do NOT suspect any spinal injury, roll the person over to the recovery position on their side to prevent them from choking


Understanding what is going on with a person when they go into shock, can help you remain calm and assist the person in the best possible way while you wait for medical help to arrive.


Of course, if you don’t know CPR, how to use an epi-pen or how to put a person into the “recovery position”, it might be time to enrol in a first aid training course, with us!