First Aid: Hypovolaemic Shock

The Effects of Bleeding

In its most simple terms, air goes in and out, blood goes round and round – anything else is bad! We’ve already looked at what to do if someone has stopped breathing but what about someone who is bleeding?

All bleeding will stop. Either through an intervention on our part or because we lose too much. But what happens to the body when we lose too much blood, and how do we recognise it?

Shock – A Normal Reaction?

It can be recognised by a person going into Shock. While you would be forgiven to think that most people are generally pretty shocked if they get injured, it can be much more severe than this. The medical term ‘shock’ is defined as “a lack of oxygen to the tissues of the body, usually caused by a fall in blood pressure or blood volume”; a serious and critical condition that can result in death if not treated.

Robert M. Hardaway, professor of Surgery at Texas Tech University School of Medicine in El Paso, Texas once summarised shock:

A quote that reads ‘Almost anyone who dies, except one who is instantly destroyed, must go through a stage of shock - a momentary pause in the act of death’, said by Professor Robert M. Hardaway.

The body is a remarkable thing and compensates for blood loss by:

  • closing the supply to no vital areas e.g., the skin and digestive system
  • speeding up the heartbeat to maintain pressure
  • constricting the blood vessels.

But there is a limit to how fast the heart can go and how many vessels can be closed. Once a third of our blood is lost, the body can no longer compensate, after this, blood pressure falls quickly, and the brain is starved of oxygen.

What Can You Do?

Cropped shot of young female doctor checking her patient pulse whith her hand in clinic room

Time for an exercise: take your pulse, how does it feel, how quickly is it beating? An adult’s pulse should be between 60-100 bpm and feel strong and steady. Look in the mirror, how does your skin look? A healthy complexion, I hope.

Now imagine you have lost a lot of blood through injury; how would your pulse feel? What would your skin look like?

We know the heart will speed up, and that blood will be diverted from the skin, our pulse therefore will be fast and weak, and we will be pale, clammy, and cold to the touch.

How Do We Treat Shock?

  1. Two women who are treating another women who is in shock.Stop the bleeding as a priority.
  2. We should lay our casualty on the floor if not already there, and if their injuries allow, raise their legs.
  3. Keep them warm, place a blanket under them if on a cold surface as well as on top, but do not overheat them
  4. Call 999, this is a life-threatening emergency
  5. Monitor the casualty being prepared to resuscitate if necessary

Question Time!

A member of staff at work has had an accident, they are on the floor and you recognise that they are going pale and complaining of feeling sick. You have taken their pulse and it is weak and fast but your assessment of them has not uncovered any injuries. What could be causing this?

Keep a close eye on our social media platforms where we will reveal the answer next week!


If you would like to learn more in-depth knowledge about life-saving First Aid for Bleeding and Shock, book onto a WA Management Emergency First Aid Course today (We have an Open Course just around on the corner on 6th June, get in touch for more info!

By Neil Ward, Training Consultant at WA Management