How to Stop Bleeding: The Ultimate Guide

12,000 children die every year from injuries. That makes accidents the leading cause of death for Americans 19 and younger. 

The good news: we can all do our part to save others from injuries by being prepared before they happen. That’s why you should learn the basics of first aid treatment, including how to stop bleeding. 

If you’re dealing with an open cut right now, keep reading. You’ll learn key ways to stop bleeding from small cuts as well as large ones. 

How to stop Bleeding From a Small Cut

If you’re dealing with a minor injury, such as a playground scrape or a small kitchen knife slip, you can easily provide first aid treatment.

Before you try to stop a cut from bleeding, take precautions. Wear sterile first aid gloves and wash your hands before and after you touch the wound.

1. Clean the Wound

If the wound has visible debris (for instance, gravel embedded in a skinned knee), clean it out of the wound. Use sterile gauze to brush the debris away. 

If you have sterile saline solution on hand, use it to rinse the open cut. Dab it on with a sterile cotton gauze pad or pour it directly over the cut. If you don’t have sterile saline, use soap and water to wash the wound. 

2. Apply Pressure

Using a sterile gauze pad, press on the wound with firm but gentle pressure. This helps the bleeding slow down so that a blood clot can form. 

Most small wounds will stop bleeding within 10-15 minutes of pressure. However, it will take longer if:

  • The victim is taking anticoagulant medications
  • The victim has blood clotting problems 
  • The cut is deeper than it first appears

If after 15 minutes of pressure the cut is still bleeding vigorously, you may need medical help. Always ask the victim if they have any health conditions or are taking medications that make it hard for them to stop bleeding. If so, call medical help right away. 

3. Elevate the Area

The cut will stop bleeding faster if you elevate it above the heart. This decreases the amount of blood flowing to the cut. Have the victim sit or lie down and prop the affected limb up on a pillow or chair.

How to Stop Bleeding From a Large Cut

A wide, deep, or complex wound needs professional medical help. When dealing with a large cut, your job is to give basic first aid treatment. The goal is to keep the victim alive and stable until the ambulance reaches you (or you can get to a hospital).

With a large cut, always call for help or ask another person to call. Then, begin treating the wound. 

1. Assess the Wound

Do a quick check of the wound before treatment. You’ll know it’s very serious if the wound:

  • Was made by a puncture
  • Is spurting blood, especially with the victim’s heartbeat
  • Has a foreign object embedded in it
  • Is located in the chest or abdomen
  • Has edges that “can talk” — meaning, they can open and close like a mouth

If the wound goes deep but does not appear to be bleeding much, there may be internal bleeding. 

2. Grab the Right Equipment

One of the best ways to stop bleeding is before it starts. Have the right equipment on hand so you don’t get stuck trying to McGyver a solution while blood is being lost.

Good quality Mass Casualty Bleeding Control Kits contain equipment like: 

  • Sterile nitrile gloves
  • A tourniquet
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Trauma shears
  • A survival blanket

Avoid trying to be a dramatic survivalist. You shouldn’t treat an open wound with improper materials. Even if you saw it in a movie once, your dirty t-shirt doesn’t belong on an open cut.

Proper medical equipment for first aid treatment keeps the cut clean. If you use dirty material for dressing, you’ll introduce bacteria into the wound. The victim will have to deal with a potentially life-threatening infection in addition to a serious injury.

3. Pad the Wound With Gauze 

Using sterile gauze from your first aid kit, pack the wound as best you can to apply pressure. Try to adapt to the shape of the wound.

If it’s a puncture wound, fill the puncture cavity with sterile gauze. If the wound has an embedded object, like an ax or knife, don’t remove it. Place gauze around the object without bumping it.

Then, apply as much pressure as you can to slow the bleeding down. 

4. Don’t Remove the Gauze

Once blood has soaked through the gauze, don’t pull it off. Instead, add more absorbent material on top. At this point you can use non-sterile materials like shirts, towels, sheets, or anything else you have on hand.

Removing the gauze will pull away whatever clots have started to form in the wound. This will make the wound start bleeding all over again, leading to even more blood loss. Keep adding layers of absorbent material and applying pressure until help comes.

Learn How to Stop Bleeding Here

In an emergency there’s no time to waste.

Fortunately, with this article, you’re already prepared. You know how to stop bleeding, what emergency supplies you should reach for, and when to call for professional help.

When it comes to emergency preparedness, there is always more to know. Do you want to be prepared for even more disasters? Just keep reading our blog — you’ll get the best tips on first aid treatment and preventing injuries before they happen.