Major bleeding

Major bleeding is life threatening and requires urgent first aid to prevent further blood loss.

The circulatory system

The heart is responsible for pumping blood around the body. Blood travels in arteries, veins and capillaries, its purpose is to transport Oxygen and nutrients around the body and to remove waste products. 

An average adult has around 10 pints of blood in their body.

Arteries: Carry blood under high pressure away from the heart.

Veins: Carry blood under low pressure back to the heart.

Capillaries: Carry blood to the individual cells and tissues, very small and very low pressures.

This is a first aid course, not an anatomy & physiology course. However, if you want to learn more about the circulatory system then I recommend this excellent YouTube video which explains the basic principles of the circulatory system in humans.

Types of wound

There are various different types of wound

Laceration: Tearing of the skin & tissue

Contusion: A bruise

Abrasion: Graze – loss of superficial layer of skin

Incision: A straight clean wound

Puncture: Caused by a sharp object which may still be in the wound (foreign / embedded object)

First aid for major bleedingPressureElevation

  1. Expose injury and elevate above level of heart

  2. If there are no foreign objects, apply firm direct pressure over the wound

  3. If there is an object, apply pressure around the foreign object

  4. Call for emergency help

A useful mnemonic to help you remember the first aid steps for major bleeding is 'PEEP'.

P: Position – position the casualty in a safe / comfortable position

E: Elevate limbs

E: Expose & examine the injury. Check for any embedded or foreign objects such as pieces of glass.

P: Pressure – apply direct pressure over the injury to control blood loss

Do not apply a tourniquet unless specifically trained to do so. Do not attempt to wash out a major wound – your aim is to control the bleeding.  Watch for signs and symptoms of shock (next unit)

First aid for a puncture wound

A puncture wound occurs when an object pierces the skin and enters into a tissue of the body. This creates an open wound which is painful and may be bleeding.Puncture wound Punctures may occur due to any sharp objects such as glass, scissors, knives, pins, nails, wood splinters and sharp stones. The object may remain embedded in the wound or may have passed clean through the body part involved.

  1. Do not remove the object unless it is very small (for example,a small splinter)
  2. Stop the bleeding by applying pressure around the wound – take care not to dislodge the object
  3. If possible, elevate the limb to prevent further blood loss
  4. Seek urgent medical attention

It is important to keep the object as still as possible to prevent further injury to the deeper structures below the skin. Whilst it is tempting sometimes to attempt to remove the object, this can actually worsen the situation by causing further bleeding and tissue damage. Removal of embedded objects should only be carried out by a healthcare professional.

Video: applying a bandage

If you have access to first aid materials you may be able to apply a sterile bandage to a wound. Applying a bandage provides direct pressure and reduces the risk of infection. The following video demonstrates how to apply a sterile bandage

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid & CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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