Uncontrolled bleeding is a major cause of preventable death after injury. May is Stop the Bleed month, and it's all about getting people trained to recognize and treat dangerous bleeds. In this article, we'll talk about why stopping the bleed is so important and how you can prepare.
Stop the bleed month is about raising awareness about the dangers of massive hemorrhages. There are a lot of misunderstandings out there regarding bleeding control, including how dangerous it is and the best way to treat it effectively.
It's easy to think that we'll never be in a situation where we'll need to stop a major bleed. It's also easy to think that we'll just call the ambulance, and they'll take care of it. But, the unfortunate truth is this: major bleeds can have huge consequences in seconds, and it takes ambulances at least several minutes to arrive on the scene (if not more).
So, let's talk more about how important it is to stop the bleed.
What is Stop the Bleed Month About?
Stop the Bleed month seeks to achieve several goals. It's not just about raising awareness. It's about transferring practical skills to all civilians. The more people who learn the skills to stop a bleed, the safer our world will become.
Here are several goals for Stop the Bleed month:
Raise awareness of the danger of bleeds
Get people trained
Foster a movement of preparation
Let's look at these sections in more detail.
Stop the Bleed: Raising Awareness for Hemorrhage Control
Major bleeding isn't just something you see in the movies. It's a serious thing that can happen nearly anytime, anywhere. With that said, some areas and activities are more likely to result in serious bleeding than others. You can use this information to guide the best places to stash, store, and carry bleeding control items.
Here are several areas with risks of bleeding:
In the kitchen and garage. Anytime there are small or large tools involved - from knives to table saws - you have to be concerned about the potential for injuries.
Outdoor activities. Think about chopping wood and using a chainsaw. These things are dangerous and are disproportionately likely to cause major bleeds. Being aware is the first step.
Car accidents. During a major car accident, bleeding can happen to any part of the body. This is one reason many people store a first aid kit in their car.
Hunting and shooting. Firearms can cause injuries when they are mishandled. And, unfortunately, there are bad people who get ahold of guns. That's why it's important to learn bleeding control techniques.
Industrial areas, factories. Whenever there's moving machinery, there is a chance that someone could be injured.
Farms. Farming equipment can cause injuries from time to time. For those who operate heavy equipment, it's best to prepare for the likelihood of injury.
This certainly isn't an all-inclusive list. However, it's good to have a few areas in mind as you begin your planning. The second part of awareness is understanding the risk.
Training People to Stop the Bleed
After understanding the gravity and present danger of major bleeds, it's time to receive the training to protect yourself and those you love. You can use bleeding control techniques on children, adults, and even pets.
If you'd like, you can take the STOP THE BLEED course online. Then, to get your certification, you can search for one of their in-person sessions, where they'll teach you hands-on tips for stopping the bleed.
You can take a first aid class from the Red Cross. Most first aid courses should teach you some of the most important steps to bleeding control.
Note: While it's great to get hands-on training from medical experts (and you should when you can!), it's also wise to do some personal investigating on the topic to ensure you have the broadest and most thorough understanding. Always try to verify your sources. Don't just take someone's opinion because they're the "expert."
While this is not the complete course, we'll give several tips to stop major bleeds below.
Skills to Stop the Bleed
There are three primary skills that civilians can learn to stop a bleed. Good direct pressure, wound packing, and how to apply a tourniquet. We'll talk about each of these in more depth.
Here are the steps to stop the bleed:
Call for help and apply firm, direct pressure. You can start by placing a hand over the bleed, pushing firmly, directly over the site of bleeding.
Consider a tourniquet if needed. If the bleeding is heavy, it may be time to use a tourniquet. Using a tourniquet requires specific steps. If you're curious, watch this video explaining how to apply a tourniquet.
If the bleeding is from the joints, pack the wound. Using any clean cloth, carefully pack it deep into the wound, trying to pinpoint the pressure on the site of bleeding. Then, continue holding very firm pressure. The patient will be uncomfortable, but it's important to get the bleeding under control.
Continue holding pressure. Don't ever lift up the gauze to look at the wound unless there's a very good reason. You should hold firm pressure, using your body weight to your advantage, until help arrives.
Those are just a few key points to keep in mind. While it may seem simple, it's actually quite difficult to coordinate all of this during the stress of an emergency.
Now, let's take some time to examine the equipment required to stop the bleed.
Equipment to Stop the Bleed
If you're looking to make a "Stop the bleed" kit, then you can use this checklist to get started. As you'll see, we'll try to order this from most important to least important. However, you'll find that you may need different tools for different places.
Here are the tools to carry with you:
Tourniquet. The tourniquet is the go-to for the major bleed to the arms or legs. It can cut off arterial blood flow fast, saving blood and saving lives.
Packing gauze. You can use packing gauze on deep wounds to the arms, legs, and necks. And, packing gauze works well for the joints - the armpits and the groin. These areas bleed heavily, but they're too high on the limb for a tourniquet. (you can get packing gauze with hemostatic agents. These may help stop the bleed faster).
Pressure bandage. The pressure bandages, like the Israeli bandage, can be used to help slow and stop moderate bleeds. Also, some of them are so modular that you can use them as splints, slings, and even a tourniquet in a pinch.
Those are some of the most common tools for bleeding control. The best tools are the ones holding your phone or computer: your hands. Even if you can't find a tourniquet, you can hold pressure with your hands. It's ideal to have gloves to protect from blood, but if you don't have any cuts or open sores on your hands, you could use bare hands and wash them later. However, this is a personal decision.
Note: if you don't have some of these tools, that's okay. For one, direct pressure will work with your bare hands. For two, you can use a t-shirt for wound packing or an improvised tourniquet.
Fostering a Movement of Preparation
Bleeds are a very serious thing. However, people who are dedicated and effectively trained can prevent bleeds from being fatal. With that said, stop the bleed month should also be a time for people to consider other aspects of their emergency preparedness and survival.
Here are several areas to consider when trying to raise your medical emergency awareness:
Survival situation. If you do any backcountry camping or you live in a remote location, then it's prudent to think about long-term survival needs (of course, everyone should be prepared!). These include shelter, water, and food. If you haven't already, see this article on how to build a survival kit.
Airway and breathing. There are frequent instances where you may need to give someone rescue breaths and help them breathe. These instances are nearly as common as a bleeding emergency, and they can be just as life-threatening. See my article on rescue breathing for more information.
CPR. Learning CPR for all the different ages is important. Things can vary quite a bit between small children and grown adults. Being proficient in CPR will ensure you're ready if something happens.
Let's go over our final words.
Conclusion on Stop the Bleed Month
Stop the bleed month seeks to raise awareness of the dangers of massive hemorrhage. Many people have no idea how to address a major bleed. And, unfortunately, many people think they know how to treat a major bleed but, in fact, do not.
Take some time to seek out good training and to do your own study. You don't want to just know the "how"; you also want to know the "why." You want to learn as much as you can about stopping a bleed. That way, when duty calls, you're ready.
After you’ve learned to stop the bleed, check out this video on building your own trauma kit.