Shock – When There Is No Doctor

A person who has been seriously injured is at risk of shock – a steadily deteriorating condition that can be described as “depletion of vital forces”.

First aid can minimize the development of shock if the possibility is recognized in good time. Minimal first aid is available in full-blown shock, but it is still important before the victim can be taken to a medical facility.

In medical terminology, “shock” refers not to an emotional disorder, but to a physical condition – a failure of the heart to circulate adequately in all parts of the body. It is caused by a loss of blood fluid, typically after a serious injury.

With heavy bleeding, the reduced blood volume in the body leads to a weakened heartbeat and an insufficient supply of the tissue with oxygen and other nutrients.

In particular, the centers in the brain that regulate breathing, heart action and blood pressure no longer function adequately. A vicious circle is therefore set in motion.

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Types of shock

The following are the situations that can cause different types of shock:

Hemorrhagic shock

also called “bleeding shock”. This is the most common form of severe shock from blood loss, such as a burn / crush injury. The bleeding can be internal or external. If the person is in a state of dehydration or is sweating profusely, it can accelerate the onset of shock. This can usually happen if burned / crushed injuries occur in a high temperature workplace.

Cardiogenic shockFirst aid emergency CPR in a man who has had a heart attack or shock

Also known as “heart shock”. It results from a failure of the heart to adequately pump blood to all parts of the body. Typical causes are electric shock, heart attack, and heart injury. Conditions like low blood pressure and ankle edema, if left untreated, can do enough damage to cause cardiogenic shock.

Neurogenic shockA young girl woke up in bed in the morning with a severe headache after stress at work and nervous shock

Also known as “nerve shock”. It results from the failure of the nervous system to control the diameter of blood vessels. The blood vessels expand beyond the point at which the available blood can fill the new volume. Blood no longer fills the system sufficiently, but instead collects in the blood vessels in certain areas of the body.

Typically, this type of shock is due to nerve paralysis caused by injuries to the spinal cord or brain. Heavy blows to the abdomen can also disrupt the nerves and cause neurogenic shock.

Breath shockCaucasian man having a pain in his chest.  High blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Prevention of Heart Attack Shock

Also known as “lung shock”. This results from a failure of the lungs to provide enough oxygen for the tissue to circulate. Watch out for broken ribs or broken sternum, deep chest wounds, neck / spinal cord injuries, or airway obstruction.

Metabolic shockAngry sick woman suffers from nausea and vomiting due to digestive and abdominal diseases at home

Also known as “body fluid shock”. It can occur with severe diarrhea, vomiting, or polyuria (excessive urination). These conditions cause the loss of fluids from the bloodstream.

Anaphylactic shockWoman sneezes on the bed.  Flu.  Young woman got nose allergy, flu sneezing nose sitting at home shock

Also known as “allergy shock”. This is a life-threatening reaction by the body to an allergen (something the person is extremely allergic to).

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The main symptom of shock is:

Other symptoms can include:

  • nausea
  • thirst
  • dizziness
  • cool
  • Restlessness and fear

The signs to look out for are:

  • Profuse (external) bleeding
  • Vomit
  • Fainting / unresponsiveness
  • Fast and weak pulse
  • Quick and shallow breathing
  • A marked drop in blood pressure (as low as 90/60 or below)
  • Pale, clammy and cool skin. Often profuse sweating
  • Dull eyes dilated the pupils
  • General restlessness

It is important to remember that immediately after being seriously injured (for example) the victim may appear tough and resilient, but that the machinery of shock has been set in motion inside.

It might take a few minutes for it to show its typical signs, or it might take several hours.


A person in shock needs to see a doctor urgently. In the meantime:

  • Make sure the airway is adequate (if the person is breathing) by correctly positioning the head. If he is not breathing, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Control the bleeding. Direct pressure on the injury site is the fastest and most efficient way to do this. Don’t waste time looking for a bandage – use a finger or hand directly over the wound and hold the pressure until the bleeding has stopped. (Even if you contaminate the wound, the risk of uncontrolled bleeding far outweighs that of possible infection. Loss of blood volume is particularly life-threatening for a person in shock.)
  • Keep the patient warm. The goal is to keep your body temperature as normal as possible. If possible, remove wet clothing and wrap the patient loosely in blankets or a coat. However, do not let the patient overheat: the additional heat can draw a large volume of blood from the depths of the body to the surface of the skin, where it is needed for the essential organs of life. Do not move patients with head, neck, or spine injuries to place a blanket underneath.
  • Provide calm and position. Treat the patient where they are (except when in a hazardous area – fire, fumes, collapsing buildings, etc.). The more a shock patient stays calm, the better their chances of survival. Avoid rough or excessive handling, as body movements can worsen the shock. Be especially careful to move a patient who may have a fracture – especially if their back is affected. If the extremities are badly injured, hold the patient flat on their back. If the patient is conscious but appears to have breathing or heart problems, they may be most comfortable (and breathe easier) in a semi-recumbent position with their head slightly raised.
  • Don’t give anything by mouth. Do not give food / medication or even tea or coffee by mouth. The patient may vomit. In this case, anything he brings up can get sucked into his windpipe and suffocate him.
  • Reassure the patient. Reducing mental anxiety plays a huge role in warding off shock. Talk to the patient with calm confidence and explain your actions in the most reassuring way possible. Tactically but firmly clean up any excited or demoralizing viewers.

Finally, remember that in situations where shock is a definite possibility (such as significant blood loss), it is wise to follow all of the above, even if the patient’s condition seems fairly stable. The bottom line is: treat shock when in doubt.

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Macallister Anderson

I am by no means an expert in every aspect of this stuff. I plan to learn, and when possible, enlist the help of experts in various fields to come together and offer their knowledge. In a few years, I dream that this site will be a virtual survival encyclopedia and allow a total novice to come on here and be supplied with everything they need to prepare for anything.

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