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What is shock?

This article provides an introduction to the basic biology of shock
Sign which says 'Don't panic'
© Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
The commonest type of shock is called hypovolemic shock – this occurs due to loss of fluids, usually blood. The body begins to go into shock when more than 2 pints of blood has been lost. It is life-threatening and requires immediate management! Here are some of the features which suggest shock is present in order to help you to recognize it.


Quick heart rate (feel at wrist)

Pale skin and cold, sweaty hands


Quick and shallow breathing

Weakening of pulse at wrist

Blue/grey skin – check lips and fingertips

Weakness and drowsiness

Nausea and vomiting

Extreme thirst


Change in behaviour e.g. aggressive

Gasping for a breath

Complete loss of consciousness


Now that you have a better understanding of what shock is, in the next step you will learn more about how to deal with it.

© University of Glasgow, 2017
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