Emergency advice

How to treat severe bleeding:

  1. Apply direct pressure to the wound.
  2. Call 999/112 for emergency help.
  3. Secure dressing with a bandage to maintain pressure.
  4. Treat for shock.
  5. Support the injury.

If the bleeding isn’t controlled quickly, they may lose a lot of blood, become unresponsive and possibly develop shock. Shock does not mean emotional shock; it is a life-threatening condition, often caused by loss of blood.

Your priority is to stop the bleeding.

What to do

  1. Severe bleeding first aid - wear gloves to prevent infection

    With open wounds, there’s a risk of infection, so wear protective first aid gloves (if available) to help prevent any infection passing between you both.

  2. Severe bleeding first aid - apply direct pressure to the wound

    Apply direct pressure to the wound using a sterile dressing if possible or a clean non-fluffy cloth, to stop the bleeding.

    • If you don't have a dressing you can ask the casualty to do this themselves.
    • If the wound is covered by the casualty's clothing, remove or cut the clothes to uncover the wound.
    • If there’s an object in the wound, don’t pull it out. It may be acting as a plug to reduce the bleeding. Instead apply pressure on either side of the object to push the edges together.
  3. First aid - call 999 or 112 for emergency help

    Ask a helper to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and give Ambulance Control details of where the wound is and the extent of the bleeding.

    • If you are on your own, use the hands-free speaker on a phone so that you can treat while speaking to ambulance control.
  4. Severe bleeding first aid - firmly secure the dressing with a bandage

    Firmly secure the dressing with a bandage to maintain pressure on the wound. Make it firm enough to maintain pressure but not so tight that it restricts their circulation.

  5. Severe bleeding first aid - check their circulation beyond the bandage

    Check their circulation beyond the bandage. Press one of the nails or the skin beyond the bandage for five seconds until it turns pale, then release the pressure. If the colour does not return within two seconds, the bandage is too tight. If necessary, loosen and reapply the bandage.

  6. Severe bleeding first aid - be prepared to treat them for shock

    The loss of blood could cause the casualty to develop shock. Treat them for this by helping them to lie down, on a rug or blanket. Raise and support their legs, so they are above the level of their heart. You should then loosen any tight clothing around their neck, chest and waist and cover the casualty with a blanket to keep them warm.

  7. Severe bleeding first aid - if bleeding shows through, apply a second dressing on top

    If bleeding shows through the pad or dressing, don’t remove it and apply a second dressing on top of the first. If blood seeps through both dressings, remove both and replace with a fresh dressing. When changing dressings, keep pressure applied to the bleeding site.

  8. Severe bleeding first aid - support the injured part and check circulation every 10 minutes

    Support the injured part with a sling or bandage and keep checking the circulation beyond the bandage every 10 minutes.

  9. Severe bleeding first aid - keep monitoring their level of response

    Keep monitoring their level of response until help arrives. If they become unresponsive at any point, prepare to start CPR.

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Related first aid advice

How to apply a dressing

When you have a wound, you should always cover it with a dressing as this can help to prevent infection. Find out what to do.

Shock

Shock - not to be confused with emotional shock – is a life-threatening condition. It happens when the body isn’t getting enough oxygen to the vital organs. Find out what to look for and what to do.

How to do CPR on an adult

If an adult is unresponsive and not breathing normally, you need to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and start CPR straight away. Learn what to do.

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