First Aid: Bleeding

External bleeding occurs when the body’s protective skin is broken. In severe cases, blood loss may place the victim’s life in danger. Direct pressure and elevation usually stop bleeding, even the rush of blood from an artery.

Call 911 if you can’t stop the bleeding or the victim shows signs of shock.



Step 1. Apply direct pressure

  • Put on gloves or use other protection to avoid contact with the victim’s blood.

  • Press directly on the wound with a clean gauze patch or cloth.

  • Keep the pressure constant for at least 5 minutes. This allows the blood to clot (thicken), preventing additional bleeding.

  • Do not lift the bandage to check on the bleeding until 5 minutes have passed.

Step 2. Elevate the injury

  • Raise the wound above heart level, if possible, to reduce blood flow to the injury.

  • If a bone is broken, immobilize the joints above and below the break before elevating the wound.

Pinch off nosebleeds

Reassure the person with the nosebleed and tell him or her to do the following:

  • Pinch the nostrils below the bone.

  • Tip the person’s head slightly forward and sit quietly, maintaining pressure on the nose for at least 5 minutes.

  • DON’T destroy the clot by blowing or rubbing nose after the bleeding stops.

Bleeding: How much is too much?

The victim’s age, body size, and overall health all help determine when bleeding becomes serious. Concentrate on the victim’s condition and appearance—not on the amount of blood lost. Watch the victim for signs of shock. If any shock symptoms appear, blood loss is a threat to life.

Signs to watch for:

  • Pale, clammy skin

  • Racing pulse

  • Confusion or unconsciousness

  • Pulsing, spurting bleeding


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