First Aid for Severe Bleeding
Severe bleeding demands special attention that can mean the difference between life and death. Scrapes, cuts, amputations and puncture wounds can all result in uncontrolled bleeding, which can quickly develop into a life-threatening situation. You should call 911 anytime someone suffers a wound that leads to significant blood loss. While you wait for medical help to arrive, follow these steps to increase the person’s chances of survival:
- If at all possible, wash your hands or put on latex gloves before attempting to aid the person.
- Have the person lie flat and cover him or her to prevent loss of body heat.
- If possible, elevate the legs and/or the wound.
- Remove dirt or debris from the wound, but leave large or deeply embedded objects in place.
- Apply pressure to the wound until it stops bleeding. Use a clean cloth or bandage to apply 20 minutes of continuous pressure before looking to see if the bleeding has subsided.
- Don’t remove the bandage or gauze, even if blood is seeping through. Instead, simply apply more bandages over the top.
- If necessary, apply pressure to the main artery delivering blood to the wound. For arm wounds, target the area inside the arm just below the armpit or right above the elbow. For leg wounds, target the area in the groin or just behind the knee.
- Once you’ve stopped the bleeding, immobilize the body part and leave bandages in place until the person receives medical attention.
Internal bleeding can occur as a result of a wide array of injuries, and many people fail to recognize the symptoms until it’s too late. If you or someone else exhibits any of the following, call 911 immediately.
- Vomiting or coughing up blood
- Bleeding from any body cavities
- Bruising on chest, neck, side or abdomen
- Wounds penetrating the chest, skull or abdomen
- Abdominal tenderness, rigidity or spasms
- Shock, indicated by thirst, anxiety, weakness or skin that feels cool to the touch
When someone suffers uncontrolled bleeding, every second counts. Be sure to call emergency services if a wound spurts or gushes blood or if you cannot promote clotting by applying pressure.