Stop the Bleeding!

By on June 15, 2012

My Emergency First Aid Kit (Blowout Kit) is set up for severe trauma.  It is designed to stop bleeding and breathing problems from trauma like gunshots.  Today lets look at stopping bleeding.  Someone can bleed out in minutes.  A normal adult has about 6 liters of blood, and it takes losing over a liter before someone is in serious trouble (1 liter is about 32 ounces or a large coke).  It seems like a lot, but your heart is an amazing pump and can put that out in minutes.

It’s generally easy to see if someone is in trouble from bleeding out.  When someone starts bleeding through clothing and dripping, or blood starts pooling, treat it as an emergency.  The four basic steps to stop bleeding are; direct pressure, elevation, pressure points, and a tourniquet.  It’s much easier to stop bleeding on a limb then on the body, so let’s start there.

Use direct pressure, push hard, with a gauze pad, cloth, or out of my kit I would use a First Aid Dressing out of my kit.  It even has straps to tie it off so it will hold pressure all by itself (that’s why I like them so much).  If the bleeding looks bad I could go to the Israeli Battle Dressing.  It’s like an ace bandage with gauze and a clotting agent in it.  Bleeding stops because it clots, or sticks to everything including itself when exposed to air.  So everything we do, is to help that process.  We put a bandage, gauze, or cloth (in emergency) to give the blood something to clot on.  On that point, if the bleeding is so bad that it soaks through the first thing you put on, put something over the top, don’t pull off the first layer.  If you pull off the first bandage it pulls away all that blood that is already clotting and starting to plug the hole.

If direct pressure isn’t working right away, elevate the limb over the heart.  It will keep a little less blood flow to the area.  There is some argument on whether this helps or not, but I would use it anyways, because it can’t hurt.  Just hold up the persons arm or have them lie down and hold up their leg as you are working.

If that isn’t working, try pressing on the pressure points.  On the arms pinch the inside between the bicep and tricep.  You are trying to pinch off the artery between you hand and the bone.  On the leg you are looking for the main artery on the inside of the thigh.  It’s deep in there, use the heel of your hand and push hard.  You are trying to slow the flow of blood.  If you are doing it right your patient will feel discomfort, or even a little pain.

If this doesn’t slow the blood flow, go to a tourniquet.  A tourniquet is designed to stop the blood flow to the limb.  The ditty we used use was life or limb, because the belief was that if you used a tourniquet that the limb would have to be amputated later.  But this has been proven not to be true again and again.  The military now talks about the golden hour.   It refers to the first hour after an injury, all the training is going towards keeping the patient alive for that hour and getting them to help.  We need to think about it the same way.  If the first three things didn’t work your patient is in danger of dying before professional help can get there.  You have to stop the bleeding.

I carry two different types of tourniquets because of space.  I love the SOF Tourniquet.  It’s the easiest and fastest to use, and with medal parts I’m not afraid to break it.  I keep mine hooked inside the buckle and ready for use.  I also have a TK4 as a back up or secondary because it’s small and light.  I can use both one handed (so I can apply it to myself or hold pressure on someone else’s wound while I put it on).  If the wound were to myself, I would go to a tourniquet way faster then on someone else.  First, you can pass out from blood loss, so If I pass out from without stopping the bleeding and there isn’t someone else around, I’m done.  Second, it’s hard to doctor yourself.  The injury is painful and so is the treatment.  I don’t want to lose my resolve before the blood flow has stopped.  And lastly, it’s faster so I can get myself to professional help during that first hour.

If you put on a tourniquet, it’s okay, and the person will be okay.  The info the doctor needs is the time it was applied.  That’s where the sharpie comes in.  After you put on the tourniquet write T and the time you applied the tourniquet on the person’s forehead as big as you can.  Make notes of any other things you did to stop the bleeding on the person’s shirt with the sharpie.  That way there is no “I think” this was done when you get to the hospital.  Also send the package of any bandages, gauze, or any other products you used to help the person with that person to the hospital.  If you have to doctor yourself, make notes the best you can anywhere you can.  Stuff the packaging into your pockets from anything else you used.  That way the doctor that will finish the job will have all the info he or she needs to save the limb and help the patient fully recover.

In the next post I’ll go over step by step on how to use a tourniquet.  Get yourself one and practice a couple times, it could save a life.

Stay Safe,


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  1. Jon Marsiglia
    October 12, 2016

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    This is a great article with lots of information that can be helpful in a bleeding emergency. I think accidents that involve a lot of bleeding should be taken seriously. This includes being properly trained in First Aid and CPR techniques, as well as having the right supplies on hand to help in the case of an actual emergency. I must note however, that I love the idea of having a Sharpie to make notes of what was done on a patient awaiting medical personnel. This is something I think everyone can benefit from.

  2. william snapp
    May 10, 2015

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    Great article and fantastic responses due to real life experiences.

    • Ben Branam
      May 11, 2015

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      Thanks William!

      • william snapp
        May 12, 2015

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        Hey Ben, You may want to look at Yunan Balyao. It is suppose to be a Vietnamise herb to stop bleeding. I am sure China and India also have some sort of similar herbs being thousands of years old has it’s advanteges if you get my drift.

  3. Mike
    May 8, 2015

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    worst first aid scenario I have ever seen. Hmm. Working for ambulance service as paramedic I have seen a lot. The most difficult is the death of an infant but I guess the one that sticks with me most is seeing a guy’s forehead and top of his head missing from a car accident. Eyeball was down on cheek and every time heart would beat it would spurt blood everywhere. Sadly did not make it.

    • Ben Branam
      May 9, 2015

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      That’s really crazy. Sorry you had to see that. We like that you run in as a medic and try to save those people. It might be one of us someday in a bad way that needs help. Thanks for reading. Keep up your spirits and keep saving people.

  4. Kirsty
    October 31, 2012

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    I am a horse addict and perform acupuncture / photonic therapy on my horses. I have used what we call “stop bleed points” on horses before when veins have been severed in an accident. They are effective and can stop bleeding on any part of the body. The points are SP1, GV14, BL17, BL20, CV4 and KI8.

    On humans, I have only tried the stop bleed points for a blood nose which someone received in a sparring competition and it worked – the blood nose stopped in seconds. On this occassion I just used acupressure on points KI8 (which is at the rear of the ankle) and SP1 which is on the medial side of the big toe at the base of the nail). I know it seems strange that grabbing the back of an ankle and a big toe and exerting pressure can stop bleeding at the other end of the body – but it does work.

    • Ben Branam
      October 31, 2012

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      I would have never guessed it that you could put pressure on an ankle to stop the bleeding. Sounds like a lot of knowledge. I’ve never heard of acupuncture being used to stop bleeding. Do you think it could be effective for severe bleeding on humans?

      • Kirsty
        November 6, 2012

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        Acupuncture is powerful and can be used for many ailments, revival, sedation, hypothermia, colic etc . In the teaching from the Equine Acupuncture training that I have undertaken the points listed stop bleeding anywhere in the body – however as stated I haven’t tested this on a human with severe bleeding (and hope I never have to!) but have on a horse and it has been effective.

        There is also a Chinese Herb called Yunan Baiyao which stops bleeding when applied to a wound which I believe was used in the Vietnam war – which is available on the web if people are thinking of packing a survival first aid kit.

        Thanks for your site! Look forward to more interesting articles.

  5. J.Bradbury
    June 16, 2012

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    Outstanding Article! I love the picture, for me it really helps. Your right, it is vital they Do NOT remove that first layer. But I have to admit this was the first time I heard about the myth of a tourniquet. Is there a solid source you could post/link on the subject?

    Keep up the Great Work!

    • Ben Branam
      June 16, 2012

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      I don’t know if there is a solid link anywhere. I have an old Boy Scout manual that talks about life or limb and find this New Port Beach CERT article that still talks about a tourniquet as a last defense. The US Military has found that the number one reason soldiers where dying on the battle field was blood loss, so they encouraged the use of tourniquets more. They then took a closer look at what guys were using for tourniquets and came up with the designes used today. Before belts, ropes, and rubber tubing was used and caused major tissue damage because they where cutting into the arm too much. So now everything is an inch or two wide. But the military found that not every tourniquet application caused the need for amputation and now that a soldier can be evacuated to a doctor really rast, the doctors could now save the life and the limb. The same is happening in the real world. I don’t know of any case study that sites percentages of limbs lost using a tourniquet, just that all the manuals are now saying use a tourniquet and it’s been my personal experience talking to soldiers involved in mass casualty events that the tourniquet was the one and only reason to go. In fact one of the soldiers I ran a mission with carried a tourniquet in each pocket (6 in total) because of his experience with a mass casualty.

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