CPR First Aid

First Aid Tips for Shock

Shock is a life-threatening situation. Learn more on how to prevent it and on how to give first aid to a person experiencing shock.

Shock is a critical medical condition that requires immediate attention and can be life-threatening if left untreated. Whether caused by severe blood loss, heart problems, blood vessel dilation, or blocked blood flow, shock can manifest through various signs and symptoms. Understanding the different types of shock and recognising its indicators is crucial for providing effective first aid. In this article, we will explore the meaning of shock, discuss its various types, highlight key signs and symptoms to look out for and provide essential first aid tips for shock.



What is Shock?

Shock is a medical emergency characterised by a systemic lack of adequate blood flow resulting to not enough oxygen reaching the body’s organs and tissues, leading to a life-threatening condition. Various factors can cause it and as a consequence, the body’s vital organs suffer from inadequate perfusion, resulting in a cascade of physiological responses. Prompt recognition of the signs of shock and immediate intervention is essential to stabilise the individual and prevent further complications.

Shock is a medical emergency characterised by a systemic lack of adequate blood flow resulting to not enough oxygen reaching the body's organs and tissues, leading to a life-threatening condition. Various factors can cause it and as a consequence, the body's vital organs suffer from inadequate perfusion, resulting in a cascade of physiological responses. Prompt recognition of the signs of shock and immediate intervention is essential to stabilise the individual and prevent further complications.


Types of Shock

This condition manifests in various forms, each with its own underlying causes and unique characteristics. Here are some of the primary types of shock:


Hypovolemic Shock

Hypovolemic shock occurs when there is a significant loss of blood or fluids from the body. This can result from traumatic injuries, decreased blood volume from severe bleeding, internal haemorrhage, or dehydration. Individuals experiencing hypovolemic shock may exhibit symptoms such as:

  • rapid heartbeat
  • cool and clammy skin
  • low blood pressure
  • dizziness

Immediate first aid measures include controlling the bleeding – making sure there is enough blood in circulation, elevating the legs if no spinal injury is suspected, and providing intravenous fluids to replenish volume.


Cardiogenic Shock

Cardiogenic shock stems from a malfunctioning heart that fails to pump blood effectively. Causes can include heart attacks, heart failure, or severe arrhythmias. Individuals in cardiogenic shock may display symptoms such as:

  • chest pain
  • rapid and weak pulse
  • pale skin
  • shortness of breath

Prompt intervention involves seeking emergency medical help by calling triple zero, administering CPR if necessary, and applying defibrillation as appropriate.


Distributive Shock

Occurs due to widespread dilation of blood vessels, causing blood to pool in peripheral tissues and reducing overall blood flow. This type of shock can result from severe infections (septic shock), severe allergic reactions (anaphylactic shock), or neurological damage (neurogenic shock). Signs and symptoms can include:

  • rapid and weak pulse
  • warm and flushed skin
  • decreased blood pressure
  • altered mental status

Immediate actions involve removing the trigger (if known), maintaining an open airway, and providing prompt medical assistance.


What is Neurogenic Shock?

It is a type of distributive shock that occurs as a result of damage or disruption to the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. It can be caused by traumatic spinal cord injuries, severe brain injuries, or certain medical conditions affecting the nervous system. Neurogenic shock is characterised by the sudden loss of sympathetic nervous system function, leading to widespread blood vessel dilation and a subsequent decrease in blood pressure.


Obstructive Shock

Arises when there is a physical obstruction that impedes blood flow, preventing the heart from effectively pumping blood. Causes include conditions like pulmonary embolism, cardiac tamponade, or tension pneumothorax. Individuals experiencing obstructive shock may exhibit symptoms such as:

  • rapid breathing
  • chest pain
  • weak pulse
  • anxiety

First aid measures focus on addressing the underlying cause obstructing the flow of blood, such as relieving a tension pneumothorax or seeking urgent medical intervention for pulmonary embolism.


Causes of Shock

By familiarising ourselves with the diverse triggers, we can better comprehend the underlying factors that contribute to this critical medical condition. Here are some common causes of shock:

Haemorrhage: Loss of blood from internal or external bleeding, whether due to traumatic injuries, accidents, or surgical complications, can lead to hypovolemic shock.

Fluid Loss: Loss of plasma or fluids from conditions like severe burns, excessive vomiting, or dehydration can result in hypovolemic shock.

Allergic Reactions: Anaphylactic shock can arise from severe allergic reactions to substances such as food, medication, insect stings, or latex.

Infections: Severe infections, particularly those leading to sepsis, can trigger distributive shock known as septic shock.

Cardiac Issues: Heart problems, including heart attacks, heart failure, or severe arrhythmias, may result in cardiogenic shock.

Toxic Exposure: Poisoning from chemicals, gases, alcohol, or drugs can cause toxic shock, affecting multiple organ systems.

Animal Bites: Envenomation from snake or animal bites can lead to systemic shock, especially if the venom contains toxins that affect circulation.

Respiratory Issues: Severe respiratory problems or chest trauma can impede oxygenation and contribute to the development of shock.

Lack of Oxygen: Conditions such as severe asthma attacks, carbon monoxide poisoning, or suffocation can deprive the body of oxygen, leading to shock.

Obstructions: Blockages in the airway, such as choking on a foreign object, can obstruct breathing and potentially result in shock.

Injuries: Shock can occur in response to various types of injuries, ranging from minor to severe, depending on factors such as the extent of trauma and the individual’s overall health.


Recognising the Signs and Symptoms

While symptoms of shock may have slight variations in their manifestations, the overarching goal remains the same—to recognise the onset of shock and take immediate action, including calling emergency services when necessary.

While symptoms of shock may have slight variations in their manifestations, the overarching goal remains the same—to recognise the onset of shock and take immediate action, including calling emergency services when necessary.

Early-stage symptoms may include:

  • Rapid pulse
  • Pale, greyish-blue skin
  • Slower capillary test
  • Sweating and cold clammy skin

As shock progresses, the following symptoms may emerge:

  • Cold sensation
  • Weakness and giddiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Thirst
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Weak thready pulse

As oxygen levels in the brain decrease, the following signs may indicate severe shock:

  • Restlessness, anxiety, and aggressiveness
  • Difficulty breathing, yawning and gasping for Air
  • Unconsciousness

In critical cases, shock can ultimately lead to cardiac arrest, where the heart stops beating.


First Aid for Shock

When faced with a casualty in shock, immediate first aid intervention is crucial for stabilising their condition. Here are optimised steps to follow in providing first aid for shock:

  • If the casualty is unconscious but breathing, place them in the recovery position to help maintain an open airway.
  • If the casualty is conscious, lay them down flat on their back to improve blood flow to vital organs.
  • Promptly control any bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound. Address and treat any other injuries present.
  • Dial emergency services (e.g. triple zero) to request professional medical care. Provide accurate information about the situation.
  • Make the casualty comfortable by loosening tight clothing to reduce constriction.
  • Keep the casualty warm by covering them with a blanket or using additional layers of clothing. This helps prevent further heat loss.
  • Provide reassurance and keep the casualty calm to minimise anxiety and stress.
  • Continuously monitor the casualty’s physical condition, including their breathing, pulse, and level of responsiveness.
  • You may moisten the casualty’s lips if they are dry, but avoid allowing them to eat or drink anything.
  • If the casualty becomes unresponsive and is not breathing normally, follow the DRSABCD protocol, which stands for Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, Circulation, and Defibrillation, if needed. Begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) as appropriate.

CPR First Aid Australia’s Available Courses

CPR First Aid Australia is offering a variety of first aid courses according to your needs. You can choose your preferred courses below:

  • NRT LogoHLTAID009 Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation 
  • NRT LogoHLTAID010 Provide an emergency first aid response  
  • NRT LogoHLTAID011 Provide first aid –  formerly known as Level 2 or Senior First Aid. 
  • NRT LogoHLTAID012 Provide first aid in an education and care setting
  • NRT LogoHLTAID014 Provide advanced first aid
  • NRT Logo22578VIC Course in First Aid Management of Anaphylaxis
  • NRT Logo22556VIC Course in the Management of Asthma Risks and Emergencies in the Workplace

Do You Need General First Aid Qualification?

We recommend the NRT Logo HLTAID011 Provide first aid.

  • This also includes CPR qualification. The Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) recommends that this qualification is updated every 3 years.

Do You Need To Update CPR Qualification?

We recommend NRT LogoHLTAID009 Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation.  

  • The Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) recommends that this qualification is updated annually.

Do You Need First Aid Qualification To Work In The Childcare and Education Industry, that Includes Anaphylaxis and Asthma Training?

We recommend NRT LogoHLTAID012 Provide an emergency first aid response in education and care setting.


Are You Working With Children?

You will also be required to obtain first aid training qualifications in Asthma and Anaphylaxis. You need to check with the employer before enrolling, so that client gets the correct training for his or her circumstance.


Conclusion

Shock is a severe medical condition characterised by a decreased blood flow to vital organs, including the brain. It can occur in various circumstances, such as uncontrolled bleeding or other critical injuries. When encountering a person in shock, it is crucial to act promptly by calling the emergency department or services (000) and providing necessary support while awaiting healthcare emergency professional. Taking appropriate measures to stabilise the individual, ensuring their comfort, and monitoring their condition can significantly impact their chances of recovery.

FAQs

In Australia, the first aid treatment for shock involves calling emergency services immediately and keeping the person lying down and warm, elevating their legs if no spinal injury is suspected, and monitoring their vital signs until medical help arrives.

When experiencing shock, the body typically responds with symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, pale or clammy skin, dizziness, and confusion. It is important to prioritise the person's safety and well-being by seeking medical assistance, ensuring they are lying down and comfortable, and providing reassurance and support until professional help arrives.

The shock position, also known as the shock recovery position, is a first aid technique where an unconscious person is placed on their side with their upper leg bent at the hip and knee, and their lower arm extended to stabilise their position. This position helps maintain an open airway, prevents choking on vomit, and allows for drainage of fluids from the mouth.

After experiencing shock, it is crucial not to neglect seeking medical assistance or professional support, as shock can stem from serious underlying causes. Avoid resorting to harmful coping mechanisms like excessive alcohol or drug use, as they can worsen the effects of shock and impede the healing process.

In cases of shock, the type of fluid given depends on the specific situation and the healthcare professional's assessment. Typically, isotonic crystalloid solutions such as normal saline (0.9% sodium chloride) or lactated Ringer's solution are commonly administered to help restore fluid volume and maintain blood pressure.

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