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Shock is acute failure of the circulation, which can occur when there is extreme pain; severe, sudden illness (such as heart attack); or excessive loss of blood or fluid after, for example, major injury, burns, vomiting, diarrhoea or severe dehydration.

Shock is a serious, life-threatening condition. It usually develops progressively, so it is important to watch carefully for any symptoms or signs, particularly deterioration in a casualty's condition after an accident or sudden illness.

Symptoms and signs

  • pale, cold, clammy skin
  • weak, rapid pulse
  • rapid breathing
  • faintness, dizziness
  • nausea
  • thirst
  • restlessness
  • drowsiness and confusion, leading eventually to unconsciousness

First aid treatment

  1. If the casualty's, unconscious, place in the lateral position, check, the airway, breathing and pulse and begin expired air resuscitation (EAR) or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary.
  2. If the casualty is conscious, lay him or her down and, if possible, raise the legs (unless there are fractures) and keep the head low to help blood flow to the brain.
  3. Because shock results from major injury or illness, you need to identify and give first aid for its cause. Is the casualty BLEEDING heavily? Are there serious BURNS AND SCALDS? Has the person suffered a HEART ATTACK?
  4. Seek medical aid urgently.
  5. Loosen any tight clothing. Try to maintain body temperature, but do not overheat the casualty.
  6. Do not give anything to drink or eat. If the casualty is thirsty, moisten the lips.
  7. Regularly monitor airway, breathing and pulse.

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