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How to Make an Arm Sling: Easy First Aid

Updated on May 6, 2016

Slings in a First Aid Situation

There are 2 types of slings that may need to be used in a first aid situation.

  • An Arm Sling
  • An Elevation Sling

Which one to use depends on the injury.

  • You use an arm sling for fractures to the upper and lower arm or injury to the upper arm.
  • You use an elevation sling for fractures and cuts to the hand and fingers, shoulder injuries, and bleeding wounds e.g. cuts to the forearm, hand or fingers.

 Since these types of injuries are not usually life threatening, and the casualty can be moved; an emergency ambulance is not needed if the casualty can be taken to hospital in a normal car.

A triangular bandage
A triangular bandage

How to Make an Arm Sling

An arm sling is used in a first aid situation, to support the arm while walking to the ambulance or car, then being transported to hospital.

It does not start in the shape it looks like when someone is wearing it though. You start with a triangular piece of cloth, called a triangular bandage, that is generally found in first aid kits. (If found somewhere else, I'd suspect someone I know put it there!)

To make a sling for the right arm, unfold the triangular bandage and have the long straight side (the base of the triangle) on the left side. For the left arm, have it the other way round.

First, you ask the casualty to put their arm across their stomach, then slightly lift it up while you slip the top of the long straight side of the triangular bandage underneath and up to their shoulder.

You then take the opposite end (which is now pointing towards the floor) up over the arm, and to the other shoulder.

How to tie a Reef Knot

Tie the ends in a reef knot, round the back of the neck.

This is the knot usually used by first aiders to tie the ends of bandages and slings in a first aid situation.


How to make an Elevation Sling

This is used for the same purpose as the arm sling, but is more appropriate for some injuries. (see above). If the injury is a cut, it will need to be bandaged first. The sling helps to control bleeding and minimise swelling.

You start with a Triangular Bandage again, but this time the casualty puts their arm up with their fingers touching their shoulder. Place the bandage over his raised arm with one end over the shoulder and the point just beyond the elbow.

Making an elevation sling
Making an elevation sling

Tuck the bandage under the arm and elbow from the bottom (see picture).

Bring the lower end of the bandage up round the person's back to meet the other end at the shoulder and tie in a reef knot.

Twist the loose point so that it fits closely around the elbow, and either tuck it in or use a safety pin to secure it.

Check the circulation in the thumb every ten minutes and loosen the sling (or bandage) if necessary.

Finally, relax and have a cup of tea. This is an important step after dealing with a casualty.

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