How Do You Treat Shock?

To treat shock, it’s crucial to recognize that different types of shock require varying interventions. Initially, ensure the person’s safety:

  • Lay them down, and if possible, elevate their legs. 
  • Keep them warm with a blanket. 
  • Avoid giving them food or drink. 
  • If they might vomit or have breathing difficulties, turn their head to the side. 

Always seek immediate medical attention, as specific treatments depend on the shock’s cause.

Understanding the Types of Shock and their Treatments

Shocks can be fatal if not identified and treated promptly. The human body reacts to different internal and external challenges by going into shock. Here’s a breakdown of various types of shock and what causes them:

Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic shock is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It’s the body’s way of responding to an allergen it considers harmful, even if it’s not. 

Common triggers include:

  • Bee stings, 
  • Peanuts,
  • Certain medications. 

Symptoms can escalate quickly, encompassing skin reactions, constricted airways, and a plummeting blood pressure. 

Treatment: Immediate administration of an epinephrine injection, commonly known as an EpiPen, can counteract the reaction, but it’s still vital to seek emergency medical attention.

Cardiogenic Shock

Cardiogenic shock is, in essence, a failing heart. It happens when the heart is compromised to the point that it can’t supply the rest of the body with enough blood.

Cause: The most frequent culprit behind this is a severe heart attack, but other heart conditions can also lead to cardiogenic shock. 

Treatment: Time is of the essence when treating this type of shock; the sooner medical intervention begins, the better the patient’s chances of survival.

Hypovolemic Shock

Imagine your circulatory system as a complex plumbing system. Now, if there’s not enough fluid (or blood) in the system, it won’t work effectively. This is what happens in hypovolemic shock. 

Cause: Whether due to external injuries that cause significant bleeding or conditions that lead to severe dehydration, the circulatory system gets critically low on fluids. 

Treatment: Replenishing these lost fluids or blood is vital to treatment.

Septic Shock

Our bodies are teeming with bacteria, most of which are harmless or even beneficial. However, when harmful bacteria get an upper hand and the body responds with inflammation, septic shock can ensue. 

Cause: This is essentially an amplified bodily response to infection. The inflammation can cause a cascade of changes, damaging organs and causing them to fail.

Treatment: Immediate medical treatment, including antibiotics and large amounts of IV fluids, is crucial.

Neurogenic Shock

The human body is a marvel of coordination, much of which is governed by the spinal cord and the brain. A severe injury to the spinal cord can disrupt this harmony, leading to neurogenic shock. 

Cause: This type of shock happens when the communication pathways between the spinal cord and the rest of the body get disrupted. As a result, blood vessels can’t function correctly, leading to a sudden drop in blood pressure. 

Treatment: Immediate medical care and often surgical intervention are needed.

Each type of shock, while differing in origin, emphasizes the importance of early recognition and intervention. Knowing the basics of these shocks can be the difference between life and death.

Table: Specific Treatment Based on Shock Type

The treatment approach will largely depend on the type of shock. This table discusses the different types of shock and the immediate actions to take:

Type of ShockImmediate ActionsNotes
AnaphylacticAdminister epinephrine auto-injector if available, lay person down, monitor breathingCaused by an allergic reaction; requires urgent medical attention
CardiogenicMake person comfortable, provide prescribed heart medications, be ready to perform CPROften a result of heart failure or heart attack
HypovolemicControl bleeding, provide sips of water if due to dehydrationCaused by loss of blood or fluids; treat bleeding or dehydration accordingly
SepticKeep person warm, seek urgent medical careResult of a severe infection; hospital treatment is essential
NeurogenicImmobilize the person, prevent further injuryResult of damage to the spinal cord; immobilization is crucial

4. Signs and Symptoms of Shock

Alt Tag: image of old man showing signs and symptoms of shock

Author credit: By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr,

So how do you identify a shock victim? Some shock symptoms may include:

  • Cool and clammy skin, 
  • Rapid heartbeat, 
  • Shallow breathing, 
  • Dizziness or fainting, 
  • Nausea or vomiting, 
  • Enlarged pupils,
  • Confusion or agitation.

Always take immediate action upon noticing these symptoms.

Immediate Actions to Take

When someone is experiencing shock, the initial moments are critical, and prompt action can greatly influence the outcome.

Call for emergency assistance: Always prioritize getting professional help. Dial the emergency number in your location immediately. While waiting for help, you can perform the following actions.

Lay the person down: Position the person on their back. If possible and if there are no suspected injuries, elevate their legs about 12 inches. This maneuver encourages blood flow to the vital organs.

Monitor breathing and pulse: Check the person’s breathing and pulse. If either stops or seems dangerously slow or shallow, immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) might be necessary.

Loosen tight clothing: Restrictive clothing can limit blood flow. Gently loosen or remove any tight clothing around the neck, chest, or waist.

Keep the person warm: Shock can cause a drop in body temperature. While you don’t want the person to overheat, covering them with a blanket can help prevent hypothermia

Prevention and Precautionary Measures

While some causes of shock are unavoidable, certain preventative measures can minimize the risk:

  • Know your allergens: If you’re aware of allergies, especially those that could induce anaphylaxis, always carry an epinephrine auto-injector and wear a medical alert bracelet.
  • Stay hydrated: Especially in hot climates or during physical exertion, drink enough water to prevent dehydration, a cause of hypovolemic shock.
  • Treat infections promptly: If you have an infection, especially if symptoms are worsening, seek medical care to prevent it from progressing to septic shock.
  • Regular medical check-ups: These can help identify and manage conditions like heart disease, reducing the risk of cardiogenic shock.

The Importance of Medical Training

Knowledge can be the difference between life and death during a medical emergency:

  • First Aid Training: Knowing basic first aid can equip you to handle emergencies more efficiently, from controlling bleeding to recognizing the signs of shock.
  • CPR Certification: If a person in shock stops breathing, effective CPR can maintain oxygen flow to the brain and other vital organs until professional medical help arrives.
  • Continuous Learning: Medical guidelines and techniques evolve. Regularly updating your knowledge ensures you’re applying the latest best practices during emergencies.

Armed with this information, anyone can be better prepared to act during the critical initial stages of shock. Nevertheless, remember that professional medical care is paramount in treating shock, so always seek emergency medical assistance.


Treating shock is complex but recognizing the signs and knowing what to do can save lives. Education, awareness, and preparedness are keys to making a difference.


What is the difference between shock and a heart attack?

Shock may follow a heart attack, but they are distinct events. Shock is a circulation failure, while a heart attack is a blockage in a coronary artery.

Can shock happen due to emotional stress?

Yes, emotional stress can lead to a type of shock known as psychogenic shock.

How do you differentiate between the different types of shock?

Observation and medical history can help, but professional medical evaluation is vital.

What should you avoid doing when someone is in shock?

Do not give them food or drink, and avoid leaving them alone if possible.

Are there any medications to always have on hand for shock treatment? Epinephrine for known severe allergies, but general treatment usually requires professional medical care.