How To Perform First Aid For External Bleeding
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How To Perform First Aid For External Bleeding

How to provide first aid for a person who is bleeding.

Don't let yourself end up in an emergency situation and not know what to do. If you learn how to identify when a bleeding wound is serious enough to contact Emergency Medical Services and what to do while waiting for the ambulance, you could save a life. Read on to find out how to treat external bleeding!

Signs and Symptoms

It may seem obvious that the main symptom of external bleeding is blood, but you may not always be able to see blood in every situation. If swimming in a lake or the ocean, the water may be too murky or may be washing blood away too quickly to notice. Or during winter, a bleeding victim may be wearing too many layers to notice bleeding until one or more of the layers is soaked through. So what other symptoms will a bleeding victim exhibit? Pain at the site of the injury, anxiety, and faintness, dizziness, or light-headedness may be experienced, depending on how much blood has been lost.

Determine the Severity

If blood is seeping from a cut, then, even if the cut looks large or nasty, you do not have an emergency on your hands. This victim can make their way to a doctor or hospital without tying up an ambulance that may be needed for someone who is near death. If, however, blood is spurting or gushing from the wound, and is a very bright red, this mean that an artery has been severed and Emergency Medical Services (911 in most North American cities) must be contacted right away.


If the bleed is arterial (gushing and bright red) 911 must be called, but first aid should be provided at the same time, if possible. You may need to make use of speaker phone, because an arterial bleed can cause a person to bleed to death in two minutes, if it is severe. Treatment for severe, moderate, and mild bleeds are is the same: get the victim resting in a comfortable position to lower the heart rate, elevate the bleeding part above the victim's heart, if possible, and apply direct pressure to the wound. Elevating the wound makes it so that the blood has to fight gravity before reaching the place where it can escape from the body, and putting pressure on the wound squeezes vessels and arteries closed, slowing blood loss and assisting the body's natural clotting factors in sealing the wound. Use a sterile dressing to apply the pressure, if available. As much pressure as possible should be applied to arterial bleeds. Press down on the wound as if the victim's life depends on it -- because it does.

When treating a victim for bleeding, you should keep talking to him/her to monitor his/her level of consciousness. Try to keep the victim conscious, and make sure he/she is sitting somewhere where he/she will not be injured if he/she becomes unconscious and falls.

Minor cuts should stop bleeding fairly quickly, and at that time disinfectant and a bandage can be applied.

First aiders should be aware of a condition called haemophilia, which is when a person's body does not make natural clotting factors -- the platelets that seal broken blood vessels and form scabs. These individuals can bleed to death even from very small cuts. If you ask, and a bleeding victim tells you that he/she has haemophilia, you need to call 911 right away, even for a small, harmless looking cut. If a bleeding victim who tells you that he/she does not have this condition continues bleeding without the flow slowing significantly for 15-20 minutes, you need to call an ambulance, even if the cut is small, in case the victim is a haemophiliac and does not know it.

The steps to treat external bleeding are simple, and easy to remember. Once you have assessed whether or not you need to call 911, remember RED: Rest and Reassurance, Elevation, Direct pressure. Red is the color you'll be seeing if you're ever in this situation anyway, so if should be difficult to forget!

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Comments (2)

Great job on this Rebecca! I had a guy on my crew who shot himself through the finger tip with a finish nail. It was a very minor injury, and barely bled a few drops. The thing is, when he saw the blood he passed out cold ant fell off a seven foot staging, hitting his head and hurting his back. Is there a medical term for those people who freak out at the sight of blood?

Yes, great