Using a Tourniquet Should Be a Basic First Aid Skill
There are some skills you hope you’ll never need, but having them can be a matter of life or death: Welcome to bleeding control.
BleedingControl.org, a group formed by the American College of Surgeons, successfully campaigned for national Bleeding Control Day ; The organization believes that many lives could be saved if ordinary citizens had some basic information on how to stop traumatic bleeding in an emergency. EMT reporter and certified Tim Mac has compiled the highlights of the day of awareness raising to teach more people how to save lives.
Tourniquets pose some danger: if they are not tied correctly and left for too long, a person can lose a limb. But uncontrolled bleeding is fatal, so the benefits of staying alive often outweigh the risk of losing a limb. First aid organizations like the Red Cross now train and recommend their correct use. If you’ve been taught to avoid harness, it’s time to update your workouts .
According to Mack, 20 percent of people who die from bleeding could be saved with this help, and bleeding is the leading cause of preventable death. Here’s what you need to know.
What to look for
Small wounds can bleed to death, but people who bleed often do so by cutting an artery. You will know that the artery was cut if bright red blood gushed out from the wound. Also, if blood is collected, if an injured person is unconscious, or if you observe a partial or complete amputation. A person with a severed artery can die in 2-3 minutes.
How to intervene
Mack has provided a step-by-step guide that may seem simple, but in the event of heavy bleeding, someone might get a little panic. Simple rules help.
First, make sure you are not in danger. Then call 911. Even if you are going to be successful in stopping the bleeding, you need qualified healthcare professionals to come as soon as possible. Then you find the injury and apply pressure to stop the blood loss.
You may not have a tourniquet on hand, but if you have one, tie it between the bloodstream and the exit wound above the injury. Otherwise, or if the wound is too large to be held with a tourniquet, use a clean cloth or haemostatic (restricting bleeding) gauze, if available. Pack the wound and hold with constant pressure. You try to close the artery and keep it closed until help arrives. Mack advises people to apply as much pressure as possible because even with serious injury, the artery runs quite deep inside the body. You need to push hard to reach it and turn it off.
Finally, if you have the guts to do so, note when the tourniquet or pressure was applied. This is useful information for healthcare professionals as it will take too long to remove the tourniquet.
These are the basics, but if you want to take lessons for free, Bleeding Control offers them all over the country. As Mack wrote , there is nothing better than hands-on exercises when it’s time to take a step forward.
Update 7/9/2018 11:04 AM: We added a paragraph to clarify that the guidelines for turnstiles have changed.