Effectively stopping bleeding caused by trauma has been essential to human survival since the dawn of time. According to a study on the epidemiology of traumatic deaths, nearly one-third are attributed to blood loss (exsanguination). Hemorrhage not only can cause imminent death, but it can also result in organ failure and sepsis. Knowing how to stop bleeding in the event of an accident or other trauma could save a life.
If you find yourself in a situation in which someone has suffered a serious injury and is bleeding profusely, follow this procedure to help stop the bleeding until professional help arrives.
Assess the situation
Before offering your assistance, make sure to ensure your safety and that of the injured person. Call 911 from a safe location that is away from any immediate danger. If it is safe to approach the injured person, try to find the source of bleeding and determine if there is any internal bleeding or if a foreign object (a bullet, a stick, a glass shard, etc.) is embedded in the wound. If the situation becomes dangerous at any point, get to a safe location and move the victim with you if possible.
Help from emergency personnel is absolutely essential in the case of a jagged, deep or puncture wound; an animal bite; a facial wound; or if bleeding doesn’t stop after 15-20 minutes. You’ll also want to look for signs of shock: cold, clammy skin; a weak pulse; shortness of breath; loss of consciousness; disorientation.
Life-threatening bleeding scenarios
Quick action on your part is critical if any of these scenarios is present:
• Blood spurting from an artery
• Bleeding that won’t stop
• Pooling blood on the ground
• Blood-soaked clothing
• Blood-soaked bandages
• Loss of all or part of an arm or leg
• Bleeding accompanied by confusion or unconsciousness
What you do next could make the difference between life or death for the injured person.
How to stop bleeding
There are several steps you should follow to help stop bleeding. If you have access to a first aid kid with sterilized gloves, put them on to protect yourself from blood-borne infection. After you’ve located the source of the bleeding:
• Open or remove the clothing that surrounds the wound.
• Cover the wound with a clean cloth and apply direct pressure with both hands. Push as hard as you can and hold pressure; do not stop.
• If the wound is very deep, pack it with sterile gauze or a clean cloth.
• If it is a severe arm or leg injury, you may need to apply a tourniquet to control the bleeding. Make a note of the time you apply it. If you do not have a tourniquet in your first aid kit, you can use a necktie, belt, rope or even a dog leash – virtually anything that can be tied and tightened two to three inches above the site of bleeding but not on a joint. It will be painful for the patient, but it is critical to keep the tourniquet tight.
Consider making up your own trauma kit
If you want to be proactive and ready for an emergency, have your own first aid or trauma kit available in your car and/or your home so that you have some essential tools on hand.
• A hemostatic agent that promotes rapid blood coagulation
• Sterilized gloves
• Sterile gauze and bandages
• Small scissors
• Medical tape
• Antibiotic ointment
• Heat and cold packs
Consider enrolling in a B-CON program
Learn bleeding control skills that could save lives through awareness of basic actions to stop life-threatening bleeding following natural disasters or from an active shooter/terrorist event.
Cascade Training is helping build more resilient communities through its bleeding control program. Make it a part of your organization’s active shooter training or general first aid training.
To learn more about B-CON and other lifesaving courses and programs, contact Cascade Training, an organization that has certified more than 1 million professionals since 2002.