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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, direct pressure and elevate the area for a full 15 minutes. Use a clock-15 minutes can seem like a long time. Resist the urge to peek after a few minutes to see whether bleeding has stopped. If blood soaks through the cloth, apply another one without lifting the first.
  • If moderate to severe bleeding has not slowed or stopped, continue direct pressure while getting help . Do not use a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Do all you can to keep the wound clean and avoid further injury to the area.
  • Watch for signs of shock, such as a weak, rapid pulse; shallow, rapid breathing; thirst, nausea, or vomiting.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Last Revised April 20, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 20, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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