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First Aid Basics: Bleeding

Updated on February 23, 2008

The loss of blood in any significant amount can lead to death. Being able to identify the source of the blood flow can help to determine not only what measures should be taken to control the bleeding but how quickly action must be taken to preserve life.

Bleeding from an Artery requires immediate attention and is identified by spraying or spurting and is bright red. Bleeding from a Vein is slightly less urgent, but can still be life threatening. It is identified by a steady dark red or reddish-blue flow. Capillary bleeding is most commonly seen and is not usually life threatening. It is characterized by a slow steady oozing.

Severe bleeding affects the whole body. The symptoms of severe bleeding are first of all shock which becomes worse as the patient eventually becomes very restless and aimlessly moves the arms and legs. Their breathing also becomes hurried and labored with sighing or gasping episodes. Checking the pulse rate can reveal a continuously increasing rate that indicates continued bleeding. The presence of internal bleeding can be assumed when any of the above symptoms are observed even when blood is not visible.

First Aid Steps For Common Bleeding

  • When bleeding comes from the mouth the victim should be laid on his side or with his head tilted forward so that the blood does not drain into the mouth or nose and choke him.
  • If possible, lay the victim down and elevate the injury above the level of the heart to slow or stop the flow of blood. Note that this should not be done in the event of a fracture.

  • If the wound is on the side of the body, the victim should be lying down with the injury on the upper side.
  • Remove the clothing or anything else that obstructs access to the injury so that a clean dressing and bandage can be applied.

  • When the bleeding is severe, the bandage needs to be tight at first but when the bleeding subsides the bandage should be cut, but not removed so as to not disturb the wound, and a new loose bandage should be applied over the original dressing.
  • If blood soaks through the original bandage, don't remove it - just add a new bandage over the original, but to a larger area, and apply it more firmly than the first one. You might also need to use more layers.
  • Immobilization of the injured part will also help control bleeding.
  • Shock should be expected in the event there has been a lot of blood loss or the wound is severe.

Acupressure for bleeding control

Points To Remember

  1. Never wash the wound except in the case of a dog bite or acid burns.

  2. Never try to remove metal fragments or pieces of glass unless they are superficial and can be easily removed.

  3. Never put an antiseptic into the wound.
  4. Never touch the wound with your bare fingers to avoid contamination of the injury.

  5. Only use a gauze or a dressing that covers your fingers and thumb or sterilized forceps to remove any superficial metal or glass fragments.
  6. Never leave the wound exposed to the open air and potential contaminants.

Common Injuries

Most everyone has either experienced a nose bleed themselves or seen another person have one. Bleeding from the nose is quite common, especially after a blow to the nose or if a head cold leads to continual blowing of the nose. Treatment is best achieved by keeping your head up and sitting upright, preferably in a cool location. The nose can be pinched below the nose bone until the bleeding stops and breathing should be done through the mouth. Most importantly - avoid blowing your nose. A nose bleed is rarely dangerous.

A "black eye" is what happens when the eye area is bruised. The white of the eye may even turn partially red from a broken blood vessel. Severe swelling may also occur but the condition will clear with time. There are no preventative measures because of the bruising but an ice compress can help reduce the pain and swelling. The compress should be removed before six hours to avoid further tissue damage.

A scalp wound can bleed quite profusely even when the injury is relatively minor due to the large amount of blood that goes to the head to maintain the brain. Treatment is to raise the head and shoulders to slow the bleeding and apply a dressing and firm pressure. When the bleeding has slowed, wrap a bandage around the head to hold the dressing in place. A quick and effective method of holding a wound together is to tie strands of hair together over the wound to act as a suture until medical attention can be obtained.

As with most situations that require First Aid, keeping cool, collected and confident will help to assure that the situation doesn't get out of control and the victim will take comfort from your demeanor as well. Taking the time to learn how to cope with bleeding injuries is always a wise investment in your time. After all, the life you save may even be your own!


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    • profile image

      First Aider 

      8 years ago

      Don't forget to be careful when applying ice to the eye to make sure you don't ice the eye. You don't want to damage those sensitive nerves. Awesome write-up otherwise!


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