Tourniquet Use Should Be One of Your Basic First Aid Skills

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There are some skills you hope you never need to use, but having them could be a matter of life and death: welcome to bleeding control., an group begun by the American College of Surgeons, has successfully campaigned for a national Stop The Bleed Day; the organization believes that many lives could be saved if ordinary citizens had some basic information on how to stop traumatic bleeding in an emergency situation. Reporter and certified EMT Tim Mak rounded up the most critical points on the day dedicated to bleeding awareness in an effort to teach more people how to save lives.

According to Mak, 20 percent of people who die from bleeding could have been saved with this care, and bleeding to death is the top cause of preventable death. Here’s what you need to know.

What To Look For

It is possible to bleed to death from smaller wounds, but people who bleed out often do so because they have cut an artery. You will know an artery has been severed if blood is spurting from the wound and bright red. Also, if blood is pooling, if the injured person is unconscious, or if you’re seeing a partial or full amputation. A person with a severed artery can die in 2-3 minutes.

How To Intervene

Mak provided a step-by-step guide which may seem simple, but in a scenario where someone is massively bleeding, you might be a little panicked. Simple rules help.

First, make sure you’re not stepping into danger. Then, call 911. Even if you’re about to stop the bleeding successfully, you want trained medical professionals to get there ASAP. Then you find the injury and apply pressure to stop the blood loss.

You may not have a tourniquet on hand, but if you do, tie it off between the blood flow and the exit wound, above the injury. If not, or if the wound is too big to be contained by a tourniquet, grab a clean cloth or hemostatic (bleeding control) gauze, if available. Pack the wound and hold it down with steady pressure. You’re trying to close off the artery and keep it closed until help can arrive. Mak advises people apply as much pressure as possible, because even if the injury is severe, the artery is fairly deep inside the body. You need to press hard to reach it and shut it off.

Finally, if you have the presence of mind to do so, mark the time the tourniquet or pressure was applied. This is useful information for medical professionals, as there are dangers to leaving tourniquets on too long.

These are the basics, but if you want to take a hands on class for free, Bleeding Control offers them all over the country. As Mak wrote, there’s nothing like hands-on training when it’s time to step up.