How to Spot Shock in Children

When a child has a serious injury or infection, the body may react by going into shock. Shock occurs when the body tried to redirect blood to the brain and other important internal organs. As a result, less blood is sent to the outside parts of the body, so the child appears pale and has cold, clammy skin.

When a child is in shock, it may be hard to detect a pulse and blood pressure. Conditions that can cause shock include bleeding, poisoning, broken bones, severe allergic reactions, head injuries, heat stroke, dehydration, blood infections and meningitis.

Shock is a serious emergency requiring prompt medical treatment. You should never delay in calling for professional medical help if you suspect a child is unwell with shock. 

Spotting the Signs of Shock

Look for the following primary signs of shock in any major injury or other medical emergencies:

  • Cold, clammy, pale or mottled skin
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Irregular, rapid and shallow breathing
  • Chills
  • Extreme thirst

Other possible signs of shock include:

  • Pinched and vacant expression
  • Glassy or dull eyes, with enlarged pupils and a staring gaze
  • Restlessness, agitation or groaning without experiencing pain or exhibiting obvious injuries
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

First Aid for Shock in Children

  1. Call for immediate emergency medical help. The child needs to get to an emergency facility as soon as possible.
  2. Keep the child laying down and elevate the feet. Try to keep the head lower than the heart to promote adequate circulation to the brain.
  3. Keep the child warm with a blanket or clothing.
  4. Administer first aid as needed for any injuries that may have caused the shock, such as bleeding or a broken bone.
  5. Try to keep the child calm and still, and avoid unnecessary noise and questions.
  6. Continue to monitor the child’s breathing and pulse until help arrives.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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