Tips For Controlling Bleeding

Bleeding wounds can be dangerous. Knowing how to control the flow of blood to a wound can help you care for a wound until you're able to reach a first aid station or a trained medical professional.

Recognize Different Types of Wounds

As you consider which method to use to control the bleeding, it's important to identify the type of wound.

  • Shallow capillary wound. The capillaries are small veins near the top of the skin. Cuts to the capillaries are superficial in nature and often do not bleed very much. Typically, capillary wounds ooze (rather than squirt) and bleed slowly. 
  • Wound to a vein. Veins deliver blood to the heart. Often blood from a cut vein is dark red or almost blue. A cut vein can be a serious problem, but will be easier to control than a cut to an artery. A cut vein will bleed steadily.
  • Arterial wound. An arterial wound will produce bright red blood. Arterial wounds can squirt blood, and will often bleed profusely. Arterial wounds are very serious because they can quickly cause a serious loss of blood for the injured person.

Blood Loss Control Methods

There are several methods that you can use to control the loss of blood in an injured person, including:

  • Application of pressure. Hold a gauze, pad or towel against the cut. Apply firm pressure to stop the bleeding. You'll be able to tell whether or not the bleeding actually is stopping by whether or not the towel or pad becomes fully saturated with blood. Application of pressure generally works well for shallow capillary wounds.
  • Hold the wound above the heart. If the cut is deep enough that it's not enough to simply apply pressure, holding the wound above the heart can help stop the bleeding. If the wound is on the leg, laying down and elevating the leg can help.
  • Application of pressure to the artery or vein. Applying pressure to the artery or vein can help stop bleeding if application of pressure doesn't work. To do this, someone must reach into the wound to touch the damaged artery or vein. This is typically only required if a person has a serious arterial or venous wound.
  • Tourniquet. A tourniquet is a device that cuts off circulation to the wound. Tourniquets can be made from anything that can be tied tightly, like a belt, rope or a piece of torn cloth. A tourniquet should always be a last resort, because cutting off the circulation to the part of the body that's bleeding could result in tissue death and necessary amputation. A tourniquet may be necessary if the blood is squirting from the wound, as this is often an indication of a serious cut into a major artery. Never apply a tourniquet to the neck, as this can result in loss of consciousness and death.

For more information about how to control bleeding, talk to a trained medical professional, or take a first aid class. For information on wound care, see this site.