How To Control Bleeding

Uncontrolled bleeding can lead to shock and death. Learn how to apply direct and indirect pressure to control bleeding in an emergency.

First Aid for Bleeding

This video from Premium Health provides an overview of first aid measures for a range of bleeding scenarios:

How To Control External Bleeding

The aim of first aid for serious external bleeding is to control the bleeding while waiting for medical assistance to arrive. Follow these steps to control bleeding:

  • Put on gloves and eye protection to prevent infection.
  • Apply pressure to the wound using either the direct or indirect method (depending on the wound – please see below). Maintain the pressure until medical help arrives or until the bleeding stops.
  • For severe bleeding, call an ambulance (dial 000).
  • Reassure the patient and encourage the patient to rest.
  • If possible, elevate and immobilise the bleeding part.
  • Do not give any food, drink or medications orally.
  • Monitor the patient closely for any signs of deterioration.
  • A tourniquet can be applied only as an absolute last resort to control life-threatening bleeding, but only if you have tried all the other methods first and to no avail.
Direct Pressure Method

Use this method when you can see the wound and the wound does not have any objects embedded in it. The steps are as follows:

  • Use your hands or a pad to apply enough pressure to stop the bleeding.
  • Maintain the pressure directly over the wound.
  • If the pad soaks through, apply another pad and continue to apply firm pressure.

This video from Expert Village demonstrates how to apply a direct pressure bandage:

Indirect Pressure Method

Use this method if there is an object embedded in the wound:

  • Place padding around the wound (or above and below it).
  • Apply enough pressure to the pads to stop the bleeding.
  • Do not remove the embedded object.
Applying a Tourniquet

As mentioned above, this is a measure of absolute last resort. Only use this method if the bleeding is life-threatening and if you have already tried all the other measures and have been unable to control a severe bleed. A decision to apply a tourniquet may well be a decision to sacrifice the limb, so do not take the decision lightly.

To apply a tourniquet as a life-saving measure of absolute last resort:

  • Use a bandage that is at least 5cm wide.
  • Wrap the bandage around the injured limb in a position that is high above the wound.
  • Make the bandage tight enough to stop the bleeding.
  • Note what time you applied the tourniquet.
  • Do not remove the tourniquet until emergency medical personnel arrive.
  • When emergency medical assistance arrives, tell them what time you placed the tourniquet.
  • DO NOT apply a tourniquet over a wound or joint.
  • DO NOT place the tourniquet under clothing – it needs to remain in plain sight.