How to treat shock

If this is an emergency, please call 000 immediately.

What is shock?

Shock is a life-threatening condition. 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.

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 person and their shock as a whole.

This guide is regularly updated and aligns with the current edition of Australian First Aid (4th edition, 7/2011)

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, fingernails (this is a late sign and means the patient is very sick)
  • Unconsciousness


What to do




Help the patient to lie down. Do not raise their legs.


Reassure the patient.


Manage severe bleeding then treat other injuries.


Loosen any tight clothing.


Keep the patient warm with a blanket or similar. Do not use any source of direct heat.


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.

Place the patient in the recovery position if they have difficulty breathing, become unconscious or are likely to vomit.

Seek medical aid or call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if the patient’s injuries require it.



Shock fact sheet

DRSABCD poster

Related advice

Severe bleeding

Bleeding should be managed as severe and life-threatening if it can’t be controlled by firm, direct and continuous pressure, and/or there are signs of shock.

Recovery position

The recovery position is one of those important pieces of first aid information that everyone should know, so we’ve created a quick and simple guide to the recovery position here.

Bites and stings

Here’s a helpful guide for dealing with many different types of bites and stings – from snakes and spiders to jellyfish and bluebottles.

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