Shock – A Life Threatening Condition
Shock isn’t something that happens during a scary moment in a film or when something completely out of the blue happens right before our eyes.
In the world of first aid, shock is a life threatening condition that requires immediate emergency treatment. Shock occurs when the circulatory system stops working. When this happens the brain and heart stop receiving the required levels of oxygen.
Most typically shock is caused by significant blood loss. If a casualty loses more than 2 pints of blood (around 20% of their normal blood volume) they will go into shock. Shock can also be made worse by fear and pain, so if the casualty is showing significant signs of external bleeding then a first aider will also need to manage these issues. As a first aider don’t forget that bleeding can also be occurring internally. There could be damaged blood vessels near a bone fracture or potentially internal bleeding.
Blood loss isn’t the only cause of shock though. Shock can be caused by any type of severe fluid loss with more obvious examples including vomiting, diarrhoea and also very serious burns. Furthermore the brain and heart may stop receiving the appropriate amount of oxygen because of blood no longer pumping around the body. This could be caused by a heart attack for example.
As a first aider you can recognise shock by seeing pale, cold and clammy skin, sweating and a very fast pulse. As shock develops you will then notice the casualty suffer from a weakened pulse (a sign blood volume is reducing), grey/blue skin around the lips and other area, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting and thirst. During the last stages of shock when brains oxygen supply really reduces the casualty may yawn and gasp for air, fall unconscious and ultimately their heart will stop.
So what do I do as a first aider?
As a first aider discovering a casualty the four key things to do are