SKILLS: How To Control Bleeding

Everybody bleeds, but for some reason, the mere sight of blood makes most people queasy and can even make a grown man light headed and send them to the ground.

Blood is the vehicle that transports oxygen and nutrients to cells all over our body. It also transports out biological waste products created by our cells so that they can be removed by the body. It helps detect foreign substances and hazards and send antibodies to protect the body from viruses and bacteria. Thankfully, blood also coagulates when we become injured to close up wounds and prevent infections.

Sometimes, when we have been injured or encounter someone else with minor to moderate injuries, blood might need a little help to get the coagulation process started. In massive injuries, massive blood loss can cause shock or even death if the bleeding is not stopped relatively quickly.

When time is of the essence, the ability to control a bleed must be second nature. However, because most people don’t encounter much blood loss in their day to day lives, seeing a person bleeding on the floor can easily cause paralysis instead of quick action.

As a professional Medic Firefighter, I have seen lots of blood in my career. From lacerations to eviscerations, gunshot wounds to stab wounds, paper cuts to full amputations, I have personally controlled and seen many others stop many severe bleeds. As with any injury, you should call 911 or your local emergency number as soon as possible to get trained professionals on the scene, and if at all possible before handling or touching any bodily fluids use “standard precautions,” in this case protective gloves.

Step 1: Apply direct pressure

In this step, grab a dry sterile dressing and apply it directly to the wound. If you don’t have a first aid kit on hand, a towel, rag, paper towel, or tissue will suffice. If you are really in a bind, grab a piece of cloth, t-shirt, anything slightly absorbent. You may want to fold these items over several times to increase the time it would take to be bled through. Hold this dressing directly on the wound as tight as you or the other person can handle comfortably. Do not continually remove these dressing to check the bleed, this will prolong the coagulation process and possibly re-introduce bacteria.

Step 2: Apply a pressure dressing

If you have roll gauze available from your home first aid kit, hold one end to the skin and wrap it around the wound tightly. Do not remove the initial dressing, wrap over the dressing you used to hold pressure. It is often helpful to twist the dressing on itself to apply more direct pressure to the injury site. You would then wrap another layer flat, then another layer with a twist. This will add extra direct pressure without cutting off too much circulation. You want to apply a lot of direct pressure, but you do not want to cut off all blood flow.

Step 3: Elevate the site

If the wound is on an extremity such as an arm or leg and pressure is not controlling the bleed, try to elevate the extremity to make the blood have work “uphill” to get to the wound site.

The above 3 steps will typically control most bleeds.

Step 4: Advanced bleeding control

By this time, you or the injured person are hopefully in the hands of trained personnel, but if you are out in the woods, wilderness, or otherwise out of reach, you may need to consider some advanced bleeding control techniques such as a commercial or improvised tourniquet or quick clot solution.

“For the life of every creature is its blood…” – Leviticus 17:14 ESV

DISCLAIMER: Be advised. It is my legal obligation to remove myself from any liability if you use these methods. Though I am a trained professional in the emergency medical field, and these methods are the methods used in emergency medicine, I cannot be held responsible for any injury or damage caused by someone else attempting these practices. This article is purely informational, make sure you leave medicine to the trained professionals!