How to Assist a Bleeding Victim in the Absence of EMS

These guidelines can be used by anyone who is not first-aid trained and as a review for first-aid trained lifeguards at a summer pool.

Steps

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    Survey the scene and confirm the scene is safe.
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    Approach and ask the victim permission for you to help them.
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    Determine the severity of the wound.
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    Take appropriate measures to avoid direct contact with bodily fluids.
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    Immediately cover the wound with a clean piece of gauze. If gauze is not available, use the next available clean material. A shirt or towel can work in this situation.
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    Have the victim place their hand directly over the wound putting pressure on the gauze and holding it in place and elevate the wound above their heart.
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    Right after determining the presence of an emergency, call the Emergency Services. It is alright to leave the victim briefly in order to do so unless they are in immediate danger.
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    Continue to wrap gauze around the wound tightly and keep pressure directly over the wound if the wound has not stopped bleeding.
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    Do not remove any layers of gauze even if they become bled through-this could cause any formed clotting material to be destroyed. Place an additional layer of gauze or other material over the soaked dressing. If dressings become excessively bulky, remove a portion of the dressings, but DO NOT remove the ones closest to the skin.
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    Do not remove any foreign objects. Wrap the gauze around the foreign objects.
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    Know that if the bleeding continues, elevate the wound above the level of the heart and continue with direct pressure.
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    Stay with the victim until EMS arrives or a professional can take over.
    • If ice is available, and the wound is life threatening, it can reduce bleeding. Ice will cause frostbite as well, so only use when pressure and elevation aren't enough.
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Tips

  • Use your best judgment to determine the severity of a wound. Severity of a wound is determined by a combination of location, type, and size. If the wound does not clot fairly quickly and/or bleeds through the first layer of gauze, it is likely the victim will need emergency assistance.
  • Types of bleeding wounds in typical order of severity:
    • Abrasion: scrape on the surface, skin is rubbed off.
    • Puncture: usually caused by a skinny, sharp object, minimal
    • surface damage.
    • Cut: sharp slice in the skin, bleeds freely.
    • Laceration: similar to a cut, but is more of a tear than a slice.
    • Avulsions: tissue is torn away from the body.

Warnings

  • Before you approach a possible bleeding victim make sure that you are aware of your surroundings and do not place yourself in danger in order to help the victim. This includes protecting yourself against blood-born pathogens by wearing gloves and avoiding direct contact with any bodily fluids.
  • An unconscious person has implied consent.
  • Laws vary state by state but most protect a person from being held legally responsible for damage done to a victim during a reasonable effort to help the victim. These are called Good Samaritan laws. Be aware of the laws in your area. Here are general guidelines that pertain to the legal responsibility of an untrained person who assists a victim:
  • Children under 18 may have their parents give consent.
  • You are not legally required to help a victim if you are untrained but once you start giving care, you are required to stay with the victim until EMS arrives or the scene becomes dangerous for you.
  • Good Samaritan Laws:
  • Always be sure to ask consent of a victim before assisting them.

Sources and Citations

  • These guidelines have been adapted from procedures put forth by the American Red Cross

Article Info

Categories: First Aid and Emergencies