Shock: Results in Possibly Fatal Low Blood Pressure

Shock is a life-threatening emergency in which insufficient oxygenated blood reaches vital body organs and tissues because of extremely low blood pressure. One type, traumatic hemorrhagic, or hypovolemic, shock, results from a severe loss of blood. Typical causes range from a major accident to a ruptured tubal pregnancy, a perforated intestinal ulcer, or ruptured aneurysm.

Other types of shock may be due to serious illnesses. For example, septic shock occurs when bacteria multiple in the bloodstream and then release toxins. Still other possible causes of shock include uncontrolled diabetes or an overdose of insulin, poisons, and a severe allergic reaction that results in anaphylactic shock. Whatever the type of shock, emergency first aid calls for similar procedures.

First Aid for Shock

If you suspect shock, take the victim to the nearest hospital emergency room. If this is not possible, call for an ambulance immediately. While waiting for medical help, start these first aid measures:

  1. Keep the victim lying down and covered with a blanket or coat to maintain warmth.
  2. Do not move the person if injury to the head, neck, or spine may have occurred. Movement can cause further damage and should be done only by trained medical personnel.
  3. In the absence of such injuries, elevate the feet 8 to 10 inches to increase blood flow to the trunk. You can prop the feet on pillows, books, or other such items. If nothing is available, simply hold them up with your hands.
  4. If the person shows signs of a heart attack — chest pain, difficult breathing, profuse sweating — do not elevate the feet. Instead, raise the head and shoulders 8 to 10 inches.
  5. If an arm or leg is bleeding severely, apply direct pressure to the wound. Bright red blood that is gushing or spurting indicates an injured artery. If pressing on the wound does not stop the bleeding, apply pressure to the appropriate point along the artery.
  6. If nausea occurs, turn the person's head to one side so that vomiting won't cause choking.
  7. If the victim falls unconscious and is not breathing, maintain an open airway and begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation immediately.
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