It’s always a good idea to refresh your knowledge of basic first aid skills so that when the time comes for action, you have a more focused base of information to call upon. Knowing the fundamentals of treating a bleeding wound now may save you critical real-time minutes afield.
The outdoor arena is full of things that can slice, poke, tear and scrape at our flesh at nearly every turn. The four types of bleeding skin injuries are:
- Lacerations: deep cut or tear
- Puncture: piercing/impaling of the skin with a sharp object
- Avulsion: skin torn from your body, missing tissue
- Abrasion: Scraped/rubbed skin against hard/rough surface
First Aid for these common types of bleeding wounds follows three basic procedures:
- Stop the bleeding: Apply direct pressure to the wound using gauze, a clean cloth, or even your hand if necessary. If your material becomes blood soaked, add another layer on top—BUT DO NOT REMOVE THE INITIAL COVERING. Raise the wound so it’s higher than the level of the victim’s heart.
- Clean the wound: First wash your hands! Use soap and water to carefully and gently clean/flush out the wound. Irrigate the wound with plenty of potable water. Do not use iodine or hydrogen peroxide as they can damage tissue. [NOTE: 1% povidone-iodine can be used instead of water as a rinse if some unremovable, visible debris remains in the wound]. It is generally considered best to leave an impaled object in place, securing it with bandaging so as not to worsen the wound site. However, if it there will be a delay in getting treatment (even a few hours in some cases), failing to remove the object and treating the wound can risk serious infection.
- Protect the wound: Apply an antibiotic cream and then cover with a sterile bandage, changing it daily.
A broad range of wound dressings are specifically designed for serious injuries involving trauma and severe hemorrhaging. One family of dressings is referred to as “Combat” Dressings. These are used to control severe bleeding by applying a field dressing similar to those used by the military in combat. Typically they are available in a range of gauze options (or other blood/fluid-absorbing materials) and thicknesses, used alone or in combination with bandages impregnated with material (e.g. powder or microscopic beads) that absorbs the moisture in the blood, stopping its flow.
Here are a few tips on slowing or stopping bleeding when in the field:
- Always raise the wound above the heart to slow the flow
- Applying ice will constrict blood vessels
- Petroleum jelly can stop bleeding in small, shallow cuts
- Tea (in bags or soaked cloth) can cause blood to clot and vessels to constrict (due to the astringent in the tannins in the tea)
- Yarrow, a wildflower plant, when dried and crushed into powder or fresh, wet leaves and flowers, can be applied to a wound to stop bleeding
There are many home/folk remedies for slowing/stopping blood flow. Be advised that unless you are absolute sure of a treatment, do not use it as it could lead to infections, allergic reactions or other adverse effects.
Using a Tourniquet? Applying a tourniquet has always been a controversial first aid treatment. However, there are instances where “catastrophic hemorrhaging”—extreme blood loss quickly resulting in death—may demand the application of a blood-flow-restricting band tightened above a victim’s injury.
Most damage and further injury comes from the improper application and use of a tourniquet. Multiple injuries where the tourniquet can temporarily stop bleeding in one area while managing another wound and amputation are two examples where applying a tourniquet can save a life—and where the benefit outweighs any potential damage caused by applying the tourniquet in the first place.
Remembering first aid treatments can be an overwhelming task. Doing your homework and periodically reviewing the processes for CPR and bleeding wound management and treatment can make you a more self-reliant outdoors person—and may just save someone’s life—even your own. Be safe. Be smart. And have fun out there!
Be prepared for your next outing with a Trauma First Aid Kit from Sportsman’s Guide.