08 June 2013

First Aid: Bleeding Control

     While having an app is handy, it is always best to learn the material for yourself. I still think you should get the app, but take the time to go over the topics and learn about them. In emergencies, there are enough surprises, we don't want our plan of action to be one of them. So today, we're going over bleeding control, just another skill you can put in your mental First Aid Kit.
     There may be some slightly bloody images, so proceed with caution. There is nothing particularly graphic, just a little bit of blood and some fake blood. Also, when dealing with blood, take precautions if possible, like wearing exam gloves.
     There are basically three types of bleeding, oozing, flowing, and gushing/spurting. More technically, they are, respectively, capillary, venous, and arterial.

Capillary Bleeding     This type of bleeding is when the smallest blood vessels, the capillaries, are compromised. This is basically road rash or a rug burn. It may hurt, but it is not life-threatening.

     This is pretty common. It can be much more severe, like someone who skids to a stop after falling off a motorcycle. Basically, you treat this by cleaning it and covering it. I would wash this under water or rinse it off with a bottle of water, then put some Neosporin on it with a band-aid or some gauze. In my backpack, I carry some of this:
Don't confuse it for your Listerine spray because you'll either get a stinging scrape or a funky tasting mouth.

Venous Bleeding
     This is a little more serious and can be life-threatening. This is when blood from the veins is coming out. This won't be spurting, but it will be flowing, and the blood will be dark red, since it lacks oxygen. Now I'm going to say it flat out. Your blood is never blue.  It's either dark red(sometimes very dark) or bright red, or somewhere in-between.
     If you've ever cut yourself, it was likely venous bleeding. I'll talk about treating it in a minute.
Arterial Bleeding
     This is certainly life threatening and something needs to be done immediately. It's messier and more disgusting than venous and you don't have as long to take care of it. This will spurt or flow really quickly. If you've seen the movie UHF, then you might appreciate this slightly bloody example:


     For serious bleeding, you want to first put pressure on the wound. The patient can do this themselves and will likely already be doing it naturally. If you need to do it yourself, place a gloved hand with some gauze over the wound.

© Rod Brouhard

  Next, elevate the limb above the level of the heart.

© Rod Brouhard
  If the bleeding continues, use a pressure point.

© Rod Brouhard

Here is a picture of different pressure points:

Basically anywhere you can feel a pulse is a pressure point. It's where the artery runs close to the skin and is typically in front of a bone, so pressure is easy to apply.

If the bleeding still continues, use a tourniquet. Yeah, that's right, a tourniquet. This is the last option, but it works best. The first one below is an improvised tourniquet, which will need to be covered more in-depth some other time. The second(which has a bloody bandage) is a manufactured tourniquet, which you can buy and have ready.

      I know some people say that you'll lose your arm or leg if you use a tourniquet, and that's not really true. Sometimes it happens, but most of the time it's because the injury was just that bad. Honestly, if it comes down to a chance of possibly losing a limb and dying, I would choose to live. Nobody would look at another person who is bleeding to death and think, "Well, I would save them but, you know, I wouldn't want them to lose their leg."
     There are some situations that I would immediately apply a tourniquet, like an amputation. If they are bleeding so much that they are going to lose too much blood, then do something quickly. Chances are, you'll be able to get them to a hospital pretty quickly where they can get some real care. That reminds me, if there is any life-threatening situation or serious concern, don't hesitate to call 9-1-1.
     If they have lost a lot of blood, then have them lie down, elevate their legs, and cover them with a blanket until the ambulance arrives. They will likely start going into shock, so this will help prevent that.

     To control bleeding, do the following:
  • Apply manual pressure
  • Elevate the wound
  • Pressure points
  • Tourniquet
  • Treat for shock
Call 9-1-1 when you realize things are bad. Don't wait too long.

Oh, and have fun!


  1. I always have fun doing first aid!

  2. It's good to know about the tourniquet. I've heard both in various first aid classes and it gets confusing to know whether it is okay or not. I agree with you, if it's a choice between life or limb, save the life!
    Of course, I'd hope no one would mistake the head for a limb, using a tourniquet on the neck is ill advised. Juz sayin!