Shock is a serious, life-threatening condition caused by a failure in the circulatory system. When a person is in shock, their vital organs are deprived of oxygen. If the condition isn’t treated quickly, the organs could be damaged permanently, or it could even lead to death.
The most common cause of shock is severe blood loss, but it can also result from other causes of fluid loss including dehydration from vomiting. Shock can also occur when the heart has been damaged by a heart problem, such a heart attack, and is unable to pump an adequate supply of blood around the body.
Fortunately, such serious injuries and illnesses are comparatively rare in sport. But if you do find yourself giving first aid to someone who is badly hurt you must bear in mind the possibility of shock. The signs and symptoms of shock to look out for include:
pale, cool, clammy skin
hyperventilation (rapid or deep breathing), or very shallow breathing
feeling and confused or faint
feeling nauseous and possibly vomiting
rapid, weak pulse
If you suspect the casualty is in shock, there a number of steps you should take to try to manage the condition until medical help arrives:
Immediately all 999 or 112 to ask for an ambulance as soon as possible.
If the casualty is conscious and there are no signs that there has been an injury to the head, neck, spine, or legs, then you can move the person into the shock position. The casualty first lies on their back and then you place something under their feet to raise and support their legs about 12 inches above the level of their head. If raising the legs is too painful, or it could potentially cause further harm, then keep the person lying flat on their back.
When the person is in the shock position you can then treat any external bleeding, or other obvious injuries.
The casualty should be kept warm by covering them with a blanket or coat. You can also help to make them more comfortable by loosening any tight clothing or their belt. Give the person lots of comfort and reassurance.
It’s important not to give the casualty anything to eat or drink, even if they complain of thirst.
If the casualty vomits, drools, or bleeds from their mouth then either turn the person’s head to the side, or roll them onto their side, to prevent choking. If an injury to the spine is suspected and they are at risk of choking, then the casualty can be turned onto their side, but they should only be moved by the ‘log roll’ method.
Regularly check that the casualty is breathing normally and that they are able to respond to you. If they stop breathing normally and are no longer responsive you will need to start CPR immediately.