Shock first aid treatment is first aid given to a person suffering from shock. Shock is a serious condition that occurs when your body doesn’t get enough blood flow. Symptoms of shock include low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, anxiety and fatigue. The first step in shock first aid treatment is calling 911.
Shock first aid treatment involves giving first aid to someone who has suffered from shock. Shock requires immediate treatment. As many as 1 in 5 people who get shock die from it. Hospital emergency departments in the United States report more than 1 million cases of shock each year.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Shock is a serious, life-threatening condition that happens when your body doesn’t get enough blood flow. Lack of blood flow to your organs means they won’t get enough oxygen, which can cause them to fail. Shock may also lead to a lack of oxygen in your body’s tissues (hypoxia) and can cause your heart to stop (cardiac arrest).
Several medical conditions may cause shock, including:
There are several different types of shock. These include hypovolemic shock, cardiogenic shock, obstructive shock and distributive shock.
Hypovolemic shock occurs due to low blood volume. Low blood volume means the amount of blood entering your heart with every heartbeat is lower than normal. So, the amount of blood pumped out to your body is lower than normal. Hypovolemic shock may be caused by:
Cardiogenic shock occurs when damage to your heart leaves it unable to pump as much blood as your body needs. The most common causes of cardiogenic shock include:
Obstructive shock occurs due to a blockage in your heart, arteries or veins which prevents blood from flowing properly. It can also occur due to a buildup of fluid in your chest cavity. Causes of obstructive shock include:
Distributive shock occurs due to excessive widening (dilation) of your blood vessels. When this happens, your blood pressure lowers and your organs don’t receive enough blood flow and oxygen. There are several types of distributive shock. These include:
Distributive shock may also occur due to drug overdoses, brain injuries and certain endocrine disorders (such as Addison’s disease).
The amount of time shock lasts depends on the type of shock and how quickly you receive treatment. Shock may have long-term effects.
The symptoms of shock depend on the cause and type of shock. Extremely low blood pressure is one of the most common signs. Other signs and symptoms of shock may include:
If you think someone is suffering from shock, the first thing you should do is call 911 or your local emergency department to request immediate medical help.
While waiting for help to arrive, check to see if the person is breathing. If they’re not breathing, start rescue breathing and CPR if you know how to do so. If the person is breathing, check their breathing every five minutes until help arrives.
If the person is awake and doesn’t have a head, neck, spine or leg injury, lay them down on their back with their feet elevated about 12 inches. Don’t elevate their head. If raising their legs causes pain, lay them flat. Make sure the person is warm and comfortable, and loosen any tight clothing. If the person has any visible wounds and you know how, give appropriate first aid and try to control any bleeding.
If the person starts to vomit, drool or bleed from their mouth, turn their head to the side to prevent choking (as long as they don’t have a spinal injury). If you suspect they have a spinal injury, perform a “log roll” instead: keep the person’s head, neck and back in line, and then roll their body and head together as a unit.
Some things you should not do as part of first aid shock treatment include:
If left untreated, shock can be fatal. By providing shock first aid treatment, you may be able to help stabilize a person suffering from shock until help arrives. The long-term effects of shock depend on the cause, type and amount of time that passed before treatment started.
If you think someone is suffering from shock, the first thing you should do is call 911 or your local emergency number to request immediate medical help. Follow shock first aid treatment until help arrives.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Shock is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when your body doesn’t get enough blood flow. Lack of blood flow means your organs don’t get enough oxygen to work correctly. Shock is one of the main causes of death in severely ill or injured people. Shock requires immediate first aid treatment. If you think someone might be suffering from shock, call 911 as soon as possible. Learn the steps of shock first aid treatment so you can assist until help arrives.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/24/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.