Stopping severe bleeding

Follow the steps below. If severe bleeding has not been controlled after 15 minutes, call 911 or go to the emergency room.

  • Elevate the site that is bleeding.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water. Put on medical gloves or place several layers of clean fabric or plastic bags between your hands and the wound.
  • Remove any visible objects from the surface of the wound. Do not attempt to clean out the wound.
  • Press firmly on the wound with a clean cloth or the cleanest material available. If the edges of the wound gape, hold them together. If there is an object deep in the wound, apply pressure around the object, not directly over it. Do not try to remove the object.
  • Apply steady pressure for a full 15 minutes. Don't peek after a few minutes to see if the bleeding has stopped. If the bleeding has not slowed down or stopped after 15 minutes, call 911 or go to the emergency room. Continue to apply pressure to the wound. If blood soaks through the cloth, apply another cloth without lifting the first one.
  • If bleeding decreases after you apply pressure for 15 minutes, but minimal bleeding starts again once you release the pressure, apply direct pressure to the wound for another 15 minutes. Direct pressure may be applied up to 3 times (a total of 45 minutes) for minimal bleeding. If bleeding (more than just oozing small amounts of blood) continues after 45 minutes of direct pressure, call a health professional.
  • Watch for signs of shock, such as a weak, rapid pulse; shallow, rapid breathing; thirst, nausea, or vomiting.

Last Updated: May 1, 2008

Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS

Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine

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