Posted on Jun 10, 2013 in Health & safety
I’ve heard the term “shock” when it comes to medicine, but I’m guessing it doesn’t just mean they saw the ending of The Sixth Sense for the first time. What is shock, and what do you do for a person suffering from it?
While sticking a fork in an electrical outlet will indeed give you a shock, electrocution is not what we’re talking about — though both are nasty and potentially life-threatening.
The medical condition commonly referred to as shock actually has nothing to do with electricity at all.
But before we can get too far here, that friendly tap on my shoulder reminds me that I have to give you the:
Finders Free Super Happy Fun Legal Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or any other sort of currently certified medical professional, however I did spend several years as a NYS EMT-D and am quite familiar with the concept and treatment for shock. I also watched a lot of ER too.
Air goes in and out, blood goes round and round. Any variation on this is bad. – First rule of EMS
My trusty old copy of Brady’s Emergency Care tells us that the movement of blood through the heart and blood vessels is called circulation, which results in the adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues, along with the removal of waste products. This is called perfusion.
This leads us to shock, or as it is technically known, hypoperfusion, defined as the “inadequate perfusion of the cells and tissues of the body caused by insufficient flow of blood through the capillaries.”
If you prefer the basic version, it means there isn’t enough blood getting the various bits of your body that keep you alive.
There are various events and conditions that can cause a person to go into shock, and here are the five different types of shock that arise as a result:
Do note that as a layperson, you don’t need to be able to diagnose what kind of shock it is — just that someone is in shock. So let’s look at the common signs and symptoms next.
Shock can be tricky for the untrained eye to pick up — at first glance the shock sufferer can just look ill or tired. But there are some giveaways, on closer inspection.
Before you do anything else at all for someone you suspect to be in shock, call 911. I cannot emphasize this enough — shock is a true medical emergency, and every minute counts. While you are waiting for help to arrive, however, here are some steps you can take:
Along with these good things to do, there are bad things not to do as well. A person in shock may become thirsty — do not give them anything by mouth, either food or liquid. If you know or even suspect they have a spinal injury, do not move them (except in the case of vomit potentially blocking the airway, as stated above). Finally, and I cannot emphasize this enough, do not wait for symptoms to get worse before calling for help. They’re probably going to anyway since shock doesn’t go away on its own, and time is of the most critical essence when treating a person in shock.
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