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If your baby goes into shock

Shock (not to be confused with emotional shock) is a life-threatening condition, which happens when the important organs in the body only get a poor supply of blood and oxygen.

It might happen if your baby were to have severe loss of blood from serious external bleeding, but can also be the result of internal bleeding or bleeding due to a closed fracture (a break or crack in a bone that hasn’t broken the skin). They may also become shocked if they experience loss of body fluids, from dehydration, diarrhoea, vomiting or burns. Other causes include a severe allergic reaction or a severe infection.

Make sure you know what to look for and do if your baby is in shock.

Watch our video - how to treat a baby who is in shock

Signs that may show that your baby is in shock:

  • • They may be unwell and very pale (pallor)
  • • Their skin may be cold and clammy
  • • Their breathing may be fast and shallow
  • • They may make a grunting noise when they breathe, yawn or sigh frequently
  • • They may not feed normally
  • • They may not have many wet nappies (which indicates that they are not passing much urine)
  • • They may appear confused and not respond as they would do normally
  • • They may become unresponsive (in extreme cases)

What to do

Call for help

1. Call 999 or 112 for emergency help and say you think your child is unwell and in shock. Explain what you think caused it (such as bleeding, diarrhoea, vomiting or an allergic reaction).

2. Try to reverse any possible cause of the shock that you can see, such as severe bleeding, encourage fluids in dehydration or treat serious burns.

3. If you have a young baby, cradle them in your arms. Older children can be lain down with their feet elevated and supported on something like a cushion. Do not leave them unattended.

4. Loosen any tight clothing around their neck, chest and waist.

5. Fear and pain can make shock worse, so it’s important to keep your baby comfortable, and calm.

6. Keep your baby warm – cover them with a blanket.

7. Keep checking their breathing, pulse and whether they can respond to you.

8. If they become unresponsive at any point, open their airway, check their breathing, and prepare to treat a baby who is unresponsive.

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