Medical “shock” is not the same as the emotional shock a person can experience. A person can go into medical shock from a number of severe injuries or illnesses. A person in shock is a medical emergency that requires professional medical attention. If you suspect someone is going into shock, call an ambulance and make the person comfortable until the ambulance arrives.


What Is Shock?

When a person goes into shock the amount of blood flowing through their bodies is reduced, along with the amount of oxygen carried to cells by the blood. Because the cells of the body need oxygen to function properly, the inadequate supply can damage organs and blood vessels, causing serious injury and even death. Hemoglobin that carries oxygen to cells is reduced when shock occurs. Glucose that provides nutrition for cells is also reduced. Many conditions can cause shock, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, congestive heart failure, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, pneumonia, and other conditions. Severe injury with heavy bleeding can also cause shock.


Symptoms of Shock

In medical shock, the person experiences shallow breathing, a weak but rapid pulse rate, low blood pressure, cold and clammy skin, weakness, and unconsciousness. Without immediate medical treatment, the person can suffer permanent organ damage or may even die. Anyone witnessing a person that may be going into shock should immediately call for an ambulance and attempt to minimize damage by making the victim comfortable until help arrives.


Immediate Care for Shock Victims

To help a victim of shock before the ambulance arrives, keep him lying down to allow the reduced blood flow to reach the heart and brain. The feet should be raised about a foot higher than the head to allow better blood flow. The person may feel chilled or start shivering. Cover them with a blanket or other material to keep his body temperature from dropping. Stay with the victim until the ambulance arrives.


Professional Care for Shock Victims

Medical treatment for those with shock should be done by medical professionals such as emergency medical service technicians, nurses, or physicians. Oxygen may be administered to assist breathing. An endotracheal tube or ventilator may be used to help the patient breathe. Intravenous fluids may be administered to boost the amount of fluid in the blood vessels. The medical professional will attend to wounds to stop the bleeding. They may also give medications to maintain proper blood pressure. These actions will help to stabilize the patient so that the underlying condition that caused the shock can then be resolved. Surgery may be necessary for internal injuries.


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