Life-threatening bleeding can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Injuries can occur on the farm, at home, in your vehicle or in the community. Knowing how to control bleeding can make the difference between life and death for you or a loved one.
A medical background isn't necessary to learn the basics of bleeding control. Education focuses on recognizing and responding to life-threatening bleeding with simple actions like applying pressure, packing wounds and using a tourniquet.
Remember the steps of bleeding control with this acronym: ABC.
After ensuring you're not in immediate danger, the first step is to call 911 to request emergency services.
When emergency services are on the way to provide advanced medical care, you should assess the bleeding. Locate the source of the bleeding by looking for injuries causing blood pooling. Clothing can affect the bleeding, so ensure you identify the wound's location on the body.
Control the bleeding.
After you find the source of the bleeding, applying pressure is the simplest, yet most effective, technique to slow it. You can use your hand to apply direct, firm pressure or cover the wound with any available cloth, like a shirt or towel and apply pressure to that. Push hard and maintain the pressure for a minimum of 20 minutes or until emergency services arrive.
The injured person may feel pain or discomfort from the pressure applied to the wound. Tell the person that the pressure level is necessary to slow the life-threatening bleeding.
For severe wounds, applying pressure may not be enough to control bleeding. If the wound is large, pack it with any available cloth to help decrease bleeding. For packing material, use clothing or towels; they don't need to be sterile or new. Any potential risk of infection from the packing material can be treated with antibiotics. The first priority is to stop the bleeding immediately.
A tourniquet is a valuable tool when applied appropriately and correctly, especially if the source of bleeding is on an extremity, such as an arm or leg. Tourniquets are now more available and easier to use, even allowing people to apply a tourniquet to themselves.
Applying a tourniquet requires training to ensure proper placement and tightness to control bleeding. Once a tourniquet is applied, do not remove it even if bleeding slows or stops. Releasing the tourniquet may allow the bleeding to resume. It's vital for medical professionals, like emergency department staff, to assess the bleeding before releasing the tourniquet.
First aid preparedness
Basic first aid knowledge can make the difference between life and death when someone is bleeding. Knowing the simple steps to take before emergency services arrive will ensure you're prepared if there's an injury.
Remember the ABCs: Alert 911, conduct a bleeding assessment and control bleeding with pressure, packing or a tourniquet.
The Trauma program at Mayo Clinic Health System offers bleeding control education to schools, community groups and organizations. Contact a Trauma program coordinator at the hospital nearest to you to learn more. The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Committee on Trauma's national Stop the Bleed program offers an online course and in-person training. Raising awareness and providing training allows people to respond in a time of crisis to potentially save a life.