Safety Tips First aid

Watch for – and know how to treat – shock

Shock is a medical emergency that “may result from trauma, heatstroke, blood loss, an allergic reaction, severe infection, poisoning, severe burns or other causes,” according to Rochester, MN-based Mayo Clinic. A person experiencing shock is not receiving enough blood or oxygen to their organs. Without proper treatment, permanent organ damage or death can occur.

The National Safety Council lists the following as signs of shock:

  • Agitation, anxiety and confusion
  • Light-headedness or feeling dizzy
  • Skin that is cool and clammy, bluish or ashy
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Vomiting or feeling sick
  • Fluctuating levels of responsiveness

From the "First Aid, CPR and AED" course offered by the National Safety Council. Learn more about NSC first aid training – including online and classroom training for learners, and courses and materials for instructors. ©2015 National Safety Council


If you suspect someone is experiencing shock, NSC advises following these nine steps:

  1. Check the victim over. Is the person responsive and breathing normally? Injured or severely bleeding?
  2. If the victim is not responsive or is bleeding severely, call 911.
  3. Be prepared to provide basic life support.
  4. If you do not see evidence of trauma, place the victim on his or her back and raise the victim’s legs so that the feet are 6-12 inches above the ground. If the victim is unresponsive but breathing and no spinal injury is suspected, place the victim in the recovery position.
  5. Loosen restrictive clothing.
  6. Watch for vomiting. If the victim vomits, turn his or her head to drain the mouth.
  7. Regulate the victim’s body temperature with a blanket or coat.
  8. Do not allow a victim of shock to eat, drink or smoke.
  9. Remain with the victim until help arrives.