Shock is an often times a misunderstood phenomenon and medical emergency. Simply defined, shock is the lack of oxygen to body tissue and organs. . No CPR class with First Aid would be complete without covering the topic of shock. The American Heart Association agrees with me and even basic CPR/AED classes include an overview of shock. Understanding the causes, symptoms and treatment for circulatory shock can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.
There are many causes of circulatory shock.
Causes of shock can include the following:
- Heavy bleeding
- Heart attack
- Spinal injury
- Chemical or drug exposure
- Severe allergic reaction
- Severe burns
- Severe bacterial infection.
The end result is that one of these underlying issues limits the body’s ability to deliver on it’s oxygen requirement to tissue and organs.
In an acute, first aid emergency, the most common causes of shock are severe bleeding that the responder can see, or internal severe bleeding the responder can’t see. The other causes of shock should be noted too, and really, anytime there is a serious injury, the treatment of shock should be on the menu for consideration.
When responding to a medical emergency, the responder should look out for shock. That means look out for the following symptoms:
- Poor complexion
- Cool or clammy to the touch – cold sweat
- Possible altered level of consciousness – ie. the lights are on, but no one is home
When you see these symptoms, take action and manage shock – right away.
First, call 911.
Circulatory shock is a huge killer and needs to be taken seriously and treated by seriously trained personnel. Paramedics have the knowhow and equipment to get the job done.
Once 911 has been called, have the person lie down on the ground.
Keep them warm, underneath as well as above. It’s great to put blankets on a patient who is in shock, but if they are lying on a cold road, they will loose all that warmth to the ground. Broken down cardboard works great for insulation from the ground.
Reassure the patient. Talk nice to them. Don’t have those discussions about how one foot is pointing one way and the other is backwards! Be strategic about how you care for this person and speak to them. Remember your bedside manner.
To summarize, watch out for shock using the above symptom list as your guide. If a patient is in shock, do the following:
- Call 911
- Have them lie down
- Keep them warm
- Talk nice to them
Knowing what causes shock, how to recognize shock, and how to treat it when it does rear it’s ugly head can save a life with a minimal amount of knowhow and action.