Blood loss caused by traumatic injury is the 2nd leading cause of death in civilian incidents. Yet there are a number of relatively easy and quick actions the lay person or first aider can do to prevent further blood loss and increase chance of surviving.
This short article aims to summarise the main options available…
In life-threatening bleeds the sole aim is to prevent further blood loss. You cannot replace lost blood outside of a hospital setting! Your options are:
Direct Pressure – simple but effective – use your (or their) hands, clothing, towels, anything absorbent and apply with as much pressure as required directly over the wound.
Elevation – again simple but effective – raise the affected part above the level of the heart.
Indirect Pressure – there are certain points on the upper arm and in the groin which allow you to apply pressure to arteries to stop further blood flowing into the limb and therefore lost out of the wound. Easy to do but needs some training.
Tourniquets – in urban settings these are generally not needed because of the proximity to professional help. In remote settings they can save someone’s life. Our understanding of their usefulness in a pre-hospital setting is much greater as a result of recent conflicts in the Middle East. Studies show that a tourniquet can be applied to a limb for up to 2 hours (and in many cases more!) with minimal damage to the tissue. Training is highly recommended before considering this option.
Which methods you use will depend on the circumstance BUT the main thing is to act fast and stop any further loss of blood in life-threatening bleeding.
Learn more about managing wilderness first aid situations on our outdoor first aid course.