Emergency Prep: First Aid: Bleeding

Today seems like a good day to learn some more first aid, dontcha think? I say it’s always a good day to learn how to save a life. 🙂
So today let’s talk about bleeding. And more specifically, how to STOP (or control) bleeding. (And again, a large portion of this information comes from our wonderful friends at The Survival Center, so a big thank you to them for their helpful site.)

Major bleeding can be a serious and life-threatening condition and, depending upon the severity, may require immediate medical attention. Bleeding can come from three different sources: an artery, a vein, or a capillary.

Arterial bleeding is the most serious type of bleeding. It is characterized by spurts of blood with each beat of the heart. It is bright red in color and is usually severe and hard to control. This requires IMMEDIATE ATTENTION!
Venus bleeding is a more steady flow of darker blood and is more easy to control.
Capillary bleeding is usually slow and oozing. It generally has a higher risk of infection than the other types.

First Aid should be given for bleeding in order to: 1) Stop the bleeding, 2) Prevent infection, and 3) Prevent shock.


To control bleeding:

  1. Apply DIRECT PRESSURE to the wound. Use a dressing (such as a gauze pad) if available. If a dressing is not available, use a rag, towel, piece of clothing, or even just your hand*. Once you have applied pressure, KEEP IT IN PLACE. Even if the dressing becomes soaked with blood, apply a new dressing on top of the original one. Do not remove the original dressing. The less a wound is disturbed, the easier it will be to stop the bleeding.
  2. If the bleeding continues and you do not suspect a fracture, ELEVATE the wound above the level of the heart and continue to apply direct pressure.
  3. If the wound still continues to bleed, apply PRESSURE AT A PRESSURE POINT. Wounds on the arms or hands can use pressure points at the wrist (radial artery- where you would check your pulse) or on the inside of the upper arm (brachial artery- just down from the armpit). Wounds on the legs can use pressure points at the crease in the groin (femoral artery- where the leg and pelvis meet) or at the back of the knee (popliteal artery). Note that you should still continue to apply direct pressure and elevate the wound while performing this step.
  4. The last thing to do is to apply a PRESSURE BANDAGE over the wound. This is something such as a roll of gauze that is used to hold a dressing in place. Pressure should be used in applying the bandage, however after applying the bandage, be sure to check the pulse to make sure that the circulation is not interrupted. A slow pulse rate, or bluish fingertips or toes, indicate that the bandage may be impeding circulation.
  5. Use a tourniquet (for arm or leg wounds) ONLY AS A LAST RESORT if bleeding cannot be stopped any other way and the situation is life-threatening. There is a significant amount of risk associated with using tourniquets. If not applied correctly (too loosely), a tourniquet can actually make the bleeding worse. On the flip side, a properly applied tourniquet will effectively stop bleeding from an extremity because it stops circulation to the affected limb but this also means that if the tourniquet is left in place too long it may lead to tissue damage due to lack of oxygen. (Note: a tourniquet should ONLY be removed by a rescuer with training.) However, when faced with a worst case scenario, the potential for a loss of limb is outweighed by the loss of life. For a tutorial on how to make a tourniquet, click HERE.

*Remember that when faced with the need to control major bleeding, it is not important that the dressings you use are sterile. Use whatever you have at hand and work fast!

Other helpful things to know:

  • Have the injured person lie down (if not already doing so). This helps with elevating the wounded site.
  • Remove any visible objects in the wound that are easy to remove.
  • Remove or cut clothing and any jewelry from around the wound. If the wound swells, tight jewelry could affect the blood flow.
  • Apply pressure and elevate the wound for at least 15 minutes (use a clock, if available).

And just a reminder: This information is for tutorial purposes only and does not replace the need for actual first aid training. I still have my goal for this year to become CPR/First Aid certified and I hope you’re working toward that too. Take care and be safe!