Many people have some training or knowledge about cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but fewer people have received training about how to stop serious bleeding. Interest in this subject increased recently in the USA following the mass shooting in Las Vegas. While Brazil has mostly been spared this sort of mass violence, there are still many situations where you might be called on to control serious bleeding.
Traffic accidents, home accidents, and urban assaults may result in significant wounds. It is important to know that trauma victims often die from blood loss, rather than from the injury itself, so quick action may save a life. The idea is to stop the bleeding until the person can be transported to a hospital for definitive treatment.
To stop bleeding:
- Call for medical help. Hopefully there is another person close who can do that while you attend to victim.
- You need to act quickly if there is serious bleeding. Life threatening blood loss can occur in minutes.
- The first active measure is to apply pressure to the bleeding site. The idea is to keep the blood inside the body.
- Before you apply pressure, try to identify exactly where the bleeding is coming from. Then you can more accurately see where to apply the pressure. Move or remove clothing as necessary to expose the skin around the bleeding site.
- Use one or both hands to put firm and steady pressure on the bleeding site. You can use your knee if needed.
- Use commercial dressing material if available, but often you need to start with hand or palm pressure. A shirt or similar might be useful to help apply pressure beneath your hand.
- If firm pressure does not work, and the bleeding is coming from a limb, a tourniquet may work. A belt can be used, and here is a video about use of a tourniquet.
- Apply the tourniquet 5 to 8 cm. from the bleeding, and closer to the victim’s thorax. It can be placed over clothing. If one tourniquet is not adequate, a second tourniquet closer to the thorax might be needed.
- Remember that pressure is preferable to a tourniquet, so only use a tourniquet if pressure does not work.
- If the bleeding is coming from an area like the shoulder or groin, you can’t use a tourniquet so packing the bleeding area with gauze or whatever is available might be helpful, along with hand pressure.
- Applying pressure may be painful for the victim, so talk to the victim in the most calm and reassuring way you can.
According to Dr. Lenworth Jacobs, trauma surgeon and director of the trauma institute in Hartford, Connecticut (USA) says: “You need to speak to them with kindness and explain what you are doing and say, ‘Hold on, we’re going to stop the bleeding; we’re going to get you to care.’ That makes a huge difference.”
One caution is that contact with another person’s blood can be risky for you, since hepatitis, AIDS, and some other diseases may be transmitted. The risk is greater if you also have open wounds or sores. Use gloves if available. A final note is that if you are the victim, and there is no one to help you, that you can use the same techniques on yourself if necessary.
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