Severe bleeding: First aid

By Mayo Clinic Staff

For severe bleeding, take these actions immediately:

  1. Remove any obvious dirt or debris from the wound. Don't remove large or deeply embedded objects. Don't probe the wound or attempt to clean it yet. Your first job is to stop the bleeding. Wear disposable protective gloves if available.
  2. Stop the bleeding. Place a sterile bandage or clean cloth on the wound. Press the bandage firmly with your palm to control bleeding. Maintain pressure by binding the wound tightly with a bandage or a piece of clean cloth. Secure with adhesive tape. Use your hands if nothing else is available.

    Raise the injured part above the level of the heart.

    Special cases:

    • Don't put direct pressure on an eye injury or embedded object.
    • Don't reposition or put pressure on displaced organs. Cover the wound with a clean dressing.
  3. Help the injured person lie down, preferably on a rug or blanket to prevent loss of body heat. If possible, elevate the legs.
  4. Don't remove the gauze or bandage. If the bleeding seeps through the gauze or other cloth on the wound, add another bandage on top of it. And keep pressing firmly on the area.

    Tourniquets: A tourniquet is effective in controlling life-threatening bleeding from a limb. Apply a tourniquet if you're trained in how to do so. When emergency help arrives, explain how long the tourniquet has been in place.

  5. Immobilize the injured body part once the bleeding has stopped. Leave the bandages in place and get the injured person to the emergency room as soon as possible.

    Call 911 or your local emergency number if the bleeding is the result of major trauma or injury. Also call for emergency help if you suspect internal bleeding. Signs of internal bleeding include:

    • Bleeding from a body opening, such as the ear, mouth, nose or anus
    • Vomiting or coughing up blood
    • Bruising
    • A tender or swollen stomach
    • Cold, clammy skin
    • Thirst
    • Fractures
    • Shock, indicated by a rapid, weak pulse, pallor, sweating, rapid breathing and decreased alertness
Oct. 12, 2011