Bleeding is the escape of blood from arteries, veins, or capillaries. Any uncontrolled bleeding, whether internal or external, is a life-threatening emergency since it can reduce the blood volume such that not enough oxygen reaches vital organs.
This type of bleeding occurs when blood vessels are broken along with the skin and blood is escaping the circulatory system. Minor bleeding, such as a scraped knee, usually stops by itself within 10 minutes when the blood clots. However, if the damaged blood vessel is too large or the blood is flowing too fast to clot, bleeding may become life threatening, especially in children and infants whose blood volume is much smaller than an adult's.
First Aid for Severe External Bleeding
External bleeding is usually easy to control. Simply apply the following 3 techniques, which spell the color of blood, RED:
- REST: This will decrease the person's blood pressure and heart rate, and, therefore, decrease the bleeding.
- ELEVATE: Place the injury above the heart to slow the bleeding as it will eliminate the effects of gravity pulling blood "down" and out of the body.
- DIRECT PRESSURE: Put pressure directly over the cut (unless there is an imbedded object) using your gloved hand or with a pressure bandage. Do not use a tourniquet as this often causes more harm than good.
All 3 steps should be done, but direct pressure is the most important.
If there is an impaled object, such as glass, then put pressure around the object and tie in place firmly. Do not attempt to remove the object as this may cause more bleeding. And do not put pressure directly over the object as this will simply worsen the injury.
Sometimes blood vessels are broken but the skin is not. This can still be a life threatening condition as the blood is still escaping the circulatory system and can't reach the vital organs. Warming signs may include pain, bruising, swelling, and blood in vomit, spit, or urine.
First Aid for Internal Bleeding
Internal bleeding is much more difficult to address than external bleeding. However, there are still some measures worth taking. They include:
- Make sure the person is resting.
- Place an ice pack over the injury.
- Contact EMS 1 right away.
- Keep monitoring the ABCs until EMS arrives.