Recognition and Management of Shock


Early recognition of the seriously ill or seriously injured person should alert the first aider to the risk of developing shock.

The symptoms, signs and rate of onset of shock vary widely depending on the nature and severity of the underlying cause3. Shock is a condition that may be difficult to identify.

Symptoms may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Thirst
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling cold, shivering or chills.
  • Extreme discomfort or pain

 Signs may include:

  • Collapse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid pulse which may become weak or slow.
  • Fever or abnormally low temperature
  • Cool, sweaty skin that may appear pale or discoloured.
  • Skin rash
  • Confusion or agitation
  • Decreased or deteriorating level of consciousness.
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased urine output
  • Ensure safety of all at the scene.
  • Lie the person down. If unconscious place the person on their side.
  • Control any bleeding promptly.
  • Send for an ambulance.
  • Administer treatments relevant to the cause of the shock.
  • Administer oxygen if available and trained to do so.
  • Maintain body temperature (prevent hypothermia).
  • Reassure and constantly re-check the person’s condition for any change.
  • If the person is unresponsive and not breathing normally, follow DRSABCD.
Positioning of people with shock

If possible, lie the person down rather than sitting them. For individuals with shock who are in the supine (lying) position and with no evidence of trauma, the use of passive leg raise may provide a transient (less than 7 minutes) improvement.