First Aid for Bleeding: Essential Steps for Treatment

Bleeding is a common medical emergency that can range from minor cuts and scrapes to severe injuries that require immediate attention. Knowing how to provide first aid for bleeding is essential for anyone, as it can help control bleeding, prevent infection, and potentially save lives. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps to manage bleeding effectively.


  1. Ensure safety for yourself and the injured person.
  2. Assess the severity of the bleeding (minor, moderate, severe).
  3. Call for professional help (911 or emergency services) if needed.
  4. Elevate the wound (if applicable) above heart level.
  5. Apply direct pressure with a clean cloth or gauze for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Use a tourniquet as a last resort for severe bleeding only.
  7. Dress and bandage the wound with sterile materials.
  8. Monitor for signs of shock (keep the person lying down, elevate legs, cover with a blanket).
  9. Encourage keeping the wound clean and dry to prevent infection.

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1. Ensure Safety

Before offering assistance, ensure the safety of both yourself and the injured person. If the situation is hazardous, wait for professional help to arrive.


2. Assess the Severity

Determine the severity of the bleeding:

  • Minor Bleeding: For minor cuts and scrapes, use clean, disposable gloves if available, and proceed to clean and cover the wound.
  • Moderate Bleeding: For moderate bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth, sterile gauze, or your hand.
  • Severe Bleeding: In cases of severe bleeding, prioritize stopping the bleed immediately. This often involves more direct pressure, elevation, and possibly the use of a tourniquet (as a last resort).


3. Call for Help

In cases of severe bleeding or if the bleeding doesn't stop with initial measures, call 911 or the emergency services number in your area. Time is critical in severe bleeding situations.


4. Elevate the Wound (if applicable)

If the bleeding is coming from an extremity (arm or leg), raise it above heart level. This can help reduce the flow of blood to the injured area and slow down bleeding.


external bleeding

5. Apply Direct Pressure

Use a clean cloth, sterile gauze, or your hand to apply firm and steady pressure directly over the wound. Maintain this pressure for at least 10-15 minutes, even if the bleeding slows down or appears to stop.


6. Use a Tourniquet (as a Last Resort)

A tourniquet should only be used in extreme cases where direct pressure and elevation have failed, and there is a risk of exsanguination (life-threatening blood loss). To use a tourniquet:

  • Place it 2-3 inches above the bleeding site.
  • Tighten it until the bleeding stops.
  • Mark the time it was applied.
  • Do not remove it; this should be done by medical professionals.


7. Dress and Bandage the Wound

Once the bleeding is under control, clean the wound gently with mild soap and water. Apply an appropriate dressing, such as sterile gauze or a clean cloth, and secure it with a sterile bandage or tape. Be careful not to disturb any blood clots that have formed.


8. Monitor for Shock

Bleeding can lead to shock. Keep the injured person lying down, elevate their legs (unless there are suspected spinal injuries), and cover them with a blanket to maintain body temperature. Monitor their breathing and pulse while waiting for professional help.


9. Prevent Infection

To reduce the risk of infection, advise the injured person to keep the wound clean and dry. They should seek medical attention for wound evaluation and possible antibiotics if the wound is deep or dirty.

Understanding the Different Types of Bleeding

Bleeding refers to the process of blood escaping from blood vessels due to an injury or other medical conditions. It is a natural response of the body to stop excessive blood loss and initiate the healing process. Bleeding can occur both externally, where blood flows out of the body through a wound or opening in the skin, and internally, where blood escapes into body cavities or tissues. There are different types of bleeding, including:

  1. Capillary Bleeding: This is usually minor and involves small blood vessels near the skin's surface. It often results in oozing of blood from small cuts or scrapes.
  2. Venous Bleeding: Venous bleeding occurs when blood flows from a vein. It is characterized by a steady flow of dark red blood.
  3. Arterial Bleeding: This is the most severe type of bleeding and results from an injury to an artery. Arterial bleeding is characterized by spurts of bright red blood that coincide with the heartbeat.
  4. Internal Bleeding: Internal bleeding is not visible as it occurs inside the body. It can be caused by trauma, medical conditions, or diseases and is typically detected through symptoms like pain, swelling, or changes in vital signs.

Bleeding can range from minor and easily managed to severe and life-threatening. Proper first aid and medical attention are essential in managing bleeding, particularly when it is severe or does not stop on its own.

What is External Bleeding?

External bleeding is usually associated with open injury. There are many different types of wounds and open injuries that can break the continuity of the skin, such as abrasions, hematoma, lacerations, excoriation, incision, puncture wounds, and gunshot wounds. Although puncture wound doesn't bleed much, they carry a high risk of infection.

Once the bleeding occurs, our body begins a complex chain of events immediately. The brain, lungs, and heart will try to compensate for the blood loss to maintain the supply of oxygen-rich blood in the body. These represent the body attempting to maintain perfusion to the vital organs by constricting peripheral blood vessels . Therefore, first aid responders should be competent in dealing with major blood loss.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of External Bleeding?

Even a small injury can result in severe external bleeding, depending on where it is on the body. The presence of blood is an easy way to spot external bleeding. Common signs of external bleeding include:


  • Visible wound
  • Pain from the skin surface
  • Loss of normal function at the site of injury
  • Pale, cold, and clammy skin
  • Fast heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Loss of consciousness

How can a rescuer recognize a victim experiencing a traumatic arterial bleed?

Recognizing a traumatic arterial bleed is crucial, as it can be life-threatening due to the rapid loss of blood. Here are some key signs that can help a rescuer identify a victim experiencing a traumatic arterial bleed:


  1. Profuse and Rapid Bleeding: Arterial bleeding typically results in a copious amount of bright red blood spurting out of the wound in sync with the victim's heartbeat. The bleeding is often more severe and faster than venous or capillary bleeding.
  2. Pulsatile Bleeding: Arterial bleeding may have a pulsatile or rhythmic flow, coinciding with the victim's heart rate. This pulsing can be a distinctive indicator of arterial bleeding.
  3. Blood Color: Arterial blood is oxygen-rich and appears bright red. The color may be noticeably different from venous bleeding, which tends to be darker in hue.
  4. Difficulty Controlling Bleeding: Arterial bleeding is challenging to control with simple direct pressure alone. Even firm pressure may not be sufficient to stop the bleeding.
  5. Weakness and Confusion: Due to rapid blood loss, the victim may show signs of shock, such as weakness, confusion, dizziness, or fainting. They may also appear pale and have a rapid pulse.
  6. Cool and Clammy Skin: As blood loss progresses, the skin may become cool, clammy, and pale. This is a sign of inadequate blood circulation.
  7. Decreased Blood Pressure: In severe cases, arterial bleeding can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure, which can be life-threatening. The victim may exhibit signs of hypotension, including altered mental status.


What will you use to protect yourself from the blood if someone is bleeding?

Protect yourself by wearing protective gloves, such as latex gloves and covering any wounds on your hands. Then, use a pad such as a clean cloth, t-shirt, or clean bandage to apply continuous pressure to the wound. If you don't have anything absorbent, use your fingers.


When should a tourniquet be applied?

Tourniquets should be used when direct pressure alone cannot stop the bleeding or if direct pressure cannot be effectively applied for any reason. Heavy and uncontrolled bleeding can cause death within minutes, so it's necessary to act fast when dealing with a traumatic wound.


What are the pressure points to stop bleeding?

There are two major pressure points in the body. Suppose the bleeding is from the leg, press with the heel of one hand on the femoral artery in the groin, where the leg bends at the hip. If the bleeding is from the arm, squeeze the brachial artery located on the inside of the upper arm.