Signs, symptoms and what to do in the event of shock.
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Written by Sonder Health
Updated over a week ago

In a medical emergency call triple zero (000) for an ambulance in Australia or triple one (111) for an ambulance in New Zealand.

The DRSABCD Action Plan is the first step when providing first aid. Use this to assess the immediate situation. DRSABCD Danger > Response > Send for help > Airway > Breathing > CPR > Defibrillation.


Shock is a life-threatening condition. Any health condition or trauma can cause shock. It is important that you treat the injury or illness that is causing the shock, as well as treating the shock and the person as a whole.

Signs and symptoms

Initial shock
• Pale face, fingernails and lips
• Cool, moist skin
• Faintness, dizziness
• Nausea
• Anxiety

Severe shock
• Restlessness
• Thirst
• Weak, rapid pulse, which may become weaker or slower
• Shallow, fast breathing
• Drowsiness, confusion
• Blue lips, face, earlobes, and fingernails (this is a late sign and means the patient is very sick)
• Unconsciousness

What to do

1. Follow DRSABCD.
2. Help the patient to lie down. Do not raise their legs.
3. Reassure the patient.
4. Manage severe bleeding then treat other injuries.
5. Loosen any tight clothing.
6. Keep the patient warm with a blanket or similar. Do not use any source of direct heat.
7. Give the patient small amounts of cool water to drink frequently if they are conscious, do not have abdominal trauma, and are unlikely to require an operation immediately.
8. Place the patient in the recovery position if they have difficulty breathing, become unconscious or are likely to vomit.
9. Seek medical aid or call 000 (AUS) or 111 (NZ) for an ambulance if the patient’s injuries require it.

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All content in Sonder's Help Centre is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Information originally published by St John Ambulance Australia.

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