Shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow. Lack of blood flow means the cells and organs do not get enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly. Many organs can be damaged as a result. Shock requires immediate treatment and can get worse very rapidly.

Shock is classified by cause:

Anaphylactic – a widespread hypersensitivity.

Cardiogenic – caused by heart failure.

Neurogenic – caused by alterations in vascular smooth muscle tone.

Septic – caused by infection.

Hypovolemic – caused by insufficient intravascular fluid volume.

Causes of Shock include:

Allergic reactions.

Heart attack.

Brain or spinal injury.

Severe infection.

Severe bleeding, severe burns or scalds, severe diarrhoea and vomiting, severe sweating and dehydration.

The casualty’s condition will depend on the severity of the underlying cause and may include:

Rapid, weak pulse.

Pale, cool, clammy skin (caused by the blood vessels constricting).

Weakness and/or dizziness.


Nausea and/or vomiting.

Evidence of loss of body fluids, or high temperature if sepsis present.


Collapse leading to unconsciousness.

Slowing of the heart rate and respiration’s as the condition deteriorates, leading to death.

As a first aider, you can reduce some of the factors that lead to the shock process.

Call 000 for an ambulance.

Reassure the casualty.

Control any bleeding by applying pressure and elevation.

If conscious, lay the casualty down.

If unconscious and breathing normally, place the casualty in the recovery position.

Conduct a secondary survey.

Treat any other injuries.

Maintain body temperature, but DO NOT overheat.

Reassure the casualty.

Loosen any restrictive clothing.

Monitor vital signs (respirations, pulse rates and level of consciousness).