The symptoms of a person suffering from shock are caused, directly or indirectly, by the disturbance
of the circulation of the blood. The pulse is weak and rapid. Breathing is likely to be shallow, rapid, and
irregular, because the poor circulation of the blood affects the breathing center in the brain. The
temperature near the surface of the body is lowered because of the poor blood flow; so the face, arms, and
legs feel cold to the touch. Sweating is likely to be very noticeable. A person in shock is usually very
pale, but in some cases the skin may have a bluish or reddish color. As mentioned previously when we
were discussing electric shock, in the care of victims with dark skin, it may be necessary to rely primarily
on the color of the mucous membranes on the inside of the mouth or under the eyelid or under the nail
bed. A person in or going into shock has a bluish color to these membranes instead of a healthy pink. The
pupils of the eyes are usually dilated (enlarged).
A conscious person in shock may complain of thirst and have a feeling of weakness, faintness, or
dizziness. The victim may feel nauseous, restless, frightened, and/or anxious. As shock deepens, these
signs gradually disappear and the victim becomes less and less responsive to what is going on. Even pain
may not arouse the shock victim. Finally, the victim may become unconscious.
You will not likely see all these symptoms of shock in any one case. Some of them appear only in
late stages of shock when the disturbance of the blood flow has become so great that the person's life is in
serious danger. Sometimes the signs of shock may be disguised by other signs of injury. You must know
what symptoms indicate the presence of shock, but do not ever wait for symptoms to develop before
beginning the treatment for shock. Remember, EVERY SERIOUSLY INJURED PERSON IS
LIKELY TO DEVELOP SERIOUS SHOCK.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT OF SHOCK.You should begin treatment for shock as
soon as possible. Prompt treatment may prevent the occurrence of shock or, if it has already developed,
prevent its reaching a critical point. Keep the victim lying down and warm. If conscious, the victim
should be encouraged and assured that expert medical help will arrive soon.
KEEP AN INJURED PERSON WARM ENOUGH FOR COMFORT, BUT DO NOT LET THE
VICTIM BECOME OVERHEATED.
The best position to use for the prevention or the treatment of shock is one which encourages the
flow of blood to the brain. If the injured person can be placed on his/her back on a bed, a cot, or a
stretcher, you can raise the lower end of the support about 12 inches so that the feet will be higher than
the head. The circumstances of the accident may prevent the use of a bed, a cot, or a stretcher. In such
cases, you might still be able to raise the feet and legs enough to help the blood flow to the brain.
Sometimes you can take advantage of a natural slope of ground and place the casualty so that the head is
lower than the feet.
In every case, of course, you will have to consider what type of injury is present before you can
decide on the best position. For example, a person with a chest wound may have so much trouble
breathing that you will have to raise the head slightly. If the face is flushed rather than pale, or if you have
any reason to suspect a head injury, do not raise the feet; instead, you should keep the head level with or
slightly higher than the feet. If the person has broken bones, you will have to judge what position would
be best both for the fractures and for shock. A fractured spine must be immobilized before the victim is
moved at all, if further injuries are to be avoided. If you have any doubts about the correct position to use,
have the victim lie flat on his/her back. THE BASIC POSITION FOR TREATING SHOCK IS ONE
IN WHICH THE HEAD IS LOWER THAN THE FEET. Do the best you can under the particular
circumstances to get the injured person into this position. In any case, never let a seriously injured person
sit, stand, or walk around.