The most common and most practical First Aid skill to know is ‘how to stop bleeding‘.
Related to this is bandaging and the possibility of having to use a tourniquet.
Bleeding usually looks worse than it really is. Having said that though, when a large blood vessel is cut or torn, the person can lose a lot of blood within minutes.
You can stop most bleeding with pressure.
Call 911 if…
- There is a lot of bleeding
- You cannot stop the bleeding
- You see signs of shock
- You suspect a head, neck, or spine injury
- You are not sure what to do
How to stop the bleeding
- Make sure the scene is safe. Get the first aid kit, or having someone get it.
- Put a dressing on the wound (gauze pad or other clean dressing). Apply direct pressure on the dressing. Use the flat part of your fingers or the palm of your hand.
- If the bleeding does not stop, add more dressings on top of the first and press harder.
- Keep pressure on the wound until it stops bleeding.
- If you can’t keep pressure on the wound, wrap a bandage firmly over the dressing to hold the dressing in place.
An important thing you may not realize, is, don’t lift the dressing to see if the bleeding has stopped. This will tear the clotting and start the process over again. Just add on more dressings over the bloody dressing and continue pressure. Leave all dressings on as you add more.
A dressing can be a gauze pad or pads, or any other clean piece of cloth. If you don’t have a dressing, you can use a gloved hand.
If the cut or scrape is minor, wash the area with lots of clean water to get the wound clean before applying the dressings.
Small wounds heal better and with less infection if an antibiotic ointment is used.
If an arm or leg has severe bleeding and you can’t stop the bleeding with direct pressure, you can use a tourniquet. Tourniquets should always be a last resort and only used if there is no other way to stop the bleeding and life is threatened. Use of tourniquets is widespread in military applications, and have the potential to save lives during major limb trauma. Studies show that a properly applied tourniquet can be left in place for up to one to two hours with minimal risk of permanent damage.
The best tourniquets are premade, or manufactured ones. If you don’t have one, you can make a tourniquet out of a piece of cloth and a stick-like object (e.g. screwdriver) to tighten the tourniquet.
If you apply the tourniquet correctly, it will cause pain as it stops the bleeding.
How to make – use a tourniquet
- Fold a cloth or bandage so that it’s long and at least 1-inch wide.
- Wrap the bandage – place the tourniquet 2 inches above the injury.
- Tie the ends of the bandage around a stick (or similar)
- Turn the stick to tighten the tourniquet.
- Continue tightening until the bleeding stops.
- Secure the stick to the tourniquet stays tight.
- Note what time the tourniquet was placed and get help ASAP.
A few other popular additions to first aid kits to help stop bleeding are…
The Emergency Bandage 4″ (Israeli Bandage)
Adventure Medical Quikclot Sport Pack
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