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During a major disaster hospitals are likely to be overcrowded or closed, which means you shouldn’t count on a nurse or doctor to help you. They could either be too busy helping people with more serious injuries, or they could be hunkering down with their families. You and your friends and family are going to have to help one another, so if someone gets a deep cut you’ll need to know how to stop the bleeding.

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And don’t try to plan on not getting hurt. If something terrible happens in your city, you will likely find it necessary to go rummaging for supplies and equipment, and you many have to trudge through fields and climb fences to get where you need to go. You might also find it necessary to reinforce your doors and walls, build temporary shelters, hunt for wild game, etc. All of these are activities in which you could get injured, and one of the most common injuries is a bad cut that won’t stop bleeding.

I’m sure you’ve seen in the movies where people put pressure on wounds or make tourniquets, but how exactly does this work? Here’s what you need to know:

Raise the injured body part above the heart. Gravity will stop the blood from flowing so quickly and make it easier to stop.

Put pressure on the wound. Blood will not clot until it stops flowing. The best thing to use is gauze as it helps blood stick together. But if none is available, use a thick cloth. If the blood soaks through, add another layer. Never remove a layer because it will rip away clotting agents and you’ll have to start over. Keep the pressure on for at least 15 minutes, though sometimes it may take as long as an hour.

Use pressure points. These are areas where blood vessels are close to the surface. If you press here, blood flow will be slowed. Be certain the point is somewhere between the wound and the heart, otherwise it will have no effect. Common pressure points: between the shoulder and elbow, behind the knee, groin area along the bikini line.

Use a tourniquet. This should be a last resort as it is somewhat dangerous. The entire limb could be damaged or even lost. But if you must, be sure to use a folded cloth or a wide belt. Never use a thin rope, wire or string. Tie the tourniquet between the wound and the heart, several inches above the wound. Use a simple square knot, like tying shoes without a bow. Push a stick through the knot and twist to tighten. Loosen the tourniquet every half hour or so to see if it is still needed.

When the bleeding has stopped, bind the wound with a tight bandage and apply an ice pack for 10 minutes.

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In some cases stitches might be necessary, but I’ll save that for another post. To learn more about treating serious wounds, I recommend visiting the eBooks page and reading Where There is No Doctor.

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  • Laura

    Good info here. 

    I have read recommendations for some of those clotting agents that you pour into bad wounds.  After seeing people talk about them often enough, I bought a couple.  Since then, I have read some contradictory reviews and taken the excellent Medical Corp class in OH.

    A couple things to know about them.  Some (like QuikClot, I believe) work by a chemical reaction that HEATS UP to work.  So, you run the risk of causing additional pain and possibly a burn when direct pressure would likely accomplish the same thing.  Secondly, the stuff has to eventually be removed to prevent infection, so you may restart the bleeding by pulling it out.

    Those products are pretty expensive so I wish I’d found these things out BEFORE I bought them.

    Where There Is No Doctor is a very good book- not bedtime reading for sure, but full of good info.