First Aid Applications to Severe Wounds

Knowledge of the correct first aid management for a victim with a severe wound could save that person’s life. Being faced with the situation of having to deal with a victim bleeding seriously can be incredibly distressing. However, the knowledge to deal effectively, safely and promptly with the case can be quickly learned. In this article, I will provide a simple step by step guide to help you deal with severe bleeding.

A wound is any damage to blood vessels, either on the surface of the body or internally. Injuries can be sustained in a variety of ways, and are often classified according to the way they were sustained. For example, an incised wound is one caused by a sharp-edged object such as a knife, whereas a laceration is one caused by an object that will crush or rip tissues, such as barbed wire. Any wound has the potential to be severe. If a major artery or vein is damaged, the victim will bleed profusely, and this requires rapid assessment and management to prevent or lessen the development of shock, which could potentially be fatal.

First aid is critical to most severe wounds1. Danger

Assess the scene for any potential further danger to yourself or the victim. For example, is the chainsaw still rotating? Do not endanger your own life as you will be little help to the victim if you injure yourself.

2. Response

Check that the victim is conscious. If the victim has been bleeding for a while before first aid is initiated, they may have become unconscious.

3. Airway and Breathing

If the patient is unconscious, it is important to assess the airway and breathing.

4. Put on disposable gloves to protect yourself.

However, if not available, do not delay.

5. Assess the wound

It is crucial to expose the thoroughly would by removing or cutting clothing if needed. Check to see if there are any objects embedded in the wound. If there is an embedded object, do not remove it as this can cause further damage and make the bleeding worse.

6. Apply direct pressure

Direct pressure is the mainstay of treatment for severe bleeding. Nearly all bleeding will stop if direct pressure is correctly applied. This should be done using the fingers or palm. Ideally, you should push over a sterile, non-fluffy dressing. However, if a dressing is not available, you can use anything — a rag, jumper or tea towel. Although the use of a sterile dressing will lessen infection risks, it is better to use a dirty rag and control the bleeding adequately than allow the victim to continue to bleed.

Any resulting infection can be dealt with later, whereas a victim can die from blood loss. The victim may be able to apply direct pressure themselves if the would is easily accessible to them. If there is an object embedded in the wound, pressure should be applied around the edges of the object. Do not push the object further in.

7. Elevation

The wound should be elevated to above the level of the victim’s heart if possible. This will reduce blood loss. Support the limb.

8. Lie the patient down as soon as possible, and elevate the legs to treat for shock. If allowed to remain standing or sitting, the patient may faint. Keep the patient warm.

9. Ensure medical aid is on the route. Call yourself, or ensure a bystander has called for an ambulance.

10. If possible, bandage the dressing in place over the wound. Secure it firmly, but not too tight as to impair the circulation. The use of a tourniquet is outdated, and not advised in current first aid practice, as they can cause severe tissue damage if misused.

11. If bleeding comes through the first dressing, apply another on top. If bleeding continues and comes through the second dressing, take all the dressings off and start again, ensuring that pressure is being placed on the correct area. Remember, it may be better just to continue providing direct pressure with your hands over a dressing.

12. While awaiting the arrival of emergency services, continue to monitor the bleeding and the general condition of the victim. Remember they may develop shock and deteriorate. Reassure the victim.

13. Do not allow the victim to eat or drink, as they may require emergency surgery on arrival at the hospital.

Following these simple steps can save the life of a victim how may otherwise bleed to death.