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Basically, physiological shock is circulatory failure. The body, because of sudden illness or trauma, can no longer provide an adequate supply of oxygenated blood to all of its parts. When organs (particularly the vital ones such as the heart, brain, lungs) do not receive enough oxygen, they fail to work properly.

Signs and Symptoms:

Keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of shock may not be immediately obvious. You must remain alert to the above signs and symptoms when there has been a sudden injury or illness.

How Shock Works

Scenario: you find an injured person who appears to be OK except for his broken arm. You provide basic first aid (knowing that medical personnel are not available, you have set the arm and have stopped the bleeding associated with that fracture). But you keep a close eye on this person because you know that:

1an injury can cause severe bleeding (internal, external or both)
2The heart, sensing the loss of blood, beats faster to compensate for this loss. However, as the victim continues to bleed, the pulse (which was strong and rapid) becomes weak and faint.
3The heart is now working harder to meet a demand for more oxygen. Thus, breathing will become faster.
4The body must now make a decision. It knows that it does not have enough blood to meet its total demands for oxygen. It has to decide what part of itself is going to get oxygen and what part isn’t. Of course, it decides to maintain circulation to the vital organs. To do this, it must constrict the blood vessels in the arms, legs and skin. Thus, the skin will appear ashen, cool, moist. The body may be perspiring heavily.
5Cells in the arm and leg tissues begin to die. The brain then tells the body to send blood back into these area so as to balance the blood flow between them and the vital organs. As a result, the vital organs do not receive enough blood. The heart tries to further compensate by beating even faster. More blood is lost and the victim’s condition worsens.
6Now the vital organs don’t have enough oxygen so they fail to work properly. As the brain fails, the victim will become restless, drowsy and then lose consciousness. As the heart fails, the pulse will become very irregular and weak. When the heart stops altogether, so does breathing.
7What has happened: the body’s continuos attempts to make up for severe blood loss resulted in death.

What to Do

Offered by Lyn.