• Shock

    Shock is a progressive, life-threatening condition in which the circulatory system fails to deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the body’s tissues and organs. As a result, organs and body systems begin to fail. Common causes of shock include severe bleeding and severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), but shock can develop quickly after any serious injury or illness. A person who is showing signs and symptoms of shock needs immediate medical attention.

    Emergency Steps


    Check the scene safety, form an initial impression, obtain consent and put on PPE, as appropriate.


    Check for signs and symptoms.

    • Rapid, weak heartbeat*
    • Rapid breathing*
    • Pale, gray, cool or moist skin*
    • Unresponsive to confused, restless or irritable*
    • Nausea or vomiting*
    • Excessive thirst*

    *Note: Signs and symptoms with a * require immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Call 9-1-1 and get equipment if the person requires immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Give Care.

    General Care: Shock

    1. Give care based on level of training for condition causing the shock (e.g., control external bleeding).
    2. Position person on their back unless that position causes discomfort or trouble breathing.
      1. If head, neck or back injury suspected, leave in position found, unless you must move for safety, to perform CPR or to control bleeding.
    3. Keep them from getting cold or overheated.
      1. If they get cold, cover them with a blanket.
      2. If they are hot, remove a layer of clothing.
    4. Do not give them anything to eat or drink, even though they may complain of thirst.
      1. This can cause vomiting or aspiration.
    5. Stay with them until EMS arrives.
    6. Continue checking them as appropriate to determine if additional care is needed.
    7. Reassure them you will help and that EMS has been called (if appropriate).
    8. Help them rest comfortably.
    9. Watch for changes in condition, including breathing and responsiveness, and give care as appropriate and trained.

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    Information Provided the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC)

    Behind every American Red Cross training program stands the Scientific Advisory Council - a team of experts dedicated to ensuring that what you learn is based on the latest and best emergency science. Visit redcross.org/take-a-class/scientific-advisory-council to see how we work, members, sub councils, scientific reviews, and recent research.

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