How to stop bleeding from a skin wound

If emergency treatment is not needed, bleeding can usually be stopped by applying steady, direct pressure and elevating the wound. The following steps will protect the skin wound and protect you from exposure to another person's blood.

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Before you try to stop the bleeding

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water, if available.
  • Put on medical gloves, if available, before applying direct pressure to the wound. If gloves are not available, use many layers of clean cloth, plastic bags, or the cleanest material available between your hands and the wound.
  • Have the injured person hold direct pressure on the wound, if possible, and elevate the injured area.
  • Use your bare hands to apply direct pressure only as a last resort.

Stop the bleeding

  • Have the injured person lie down and elevate the site that is bleeding.
  • Remove any visible objects in the wound that are easy to remove. Control the bleeding before trying to clean the wound.
  • Remove or cut clothing from around the wound. Remove any jewelry from the general area of the wound so if the area swells, the jewelry will not affect blood flow.
  • Apply steady, direct pressure 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 there is an object in the wound, apply pressure around the object, not directly over it.
  • If moderate to severe bleeding has not slowed or stopped after 15 minutes, continue direct pressure and elevate the injured area while transporting the injured person to a medical facility. 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.
  • If after 15 minutes of steady pressure mild bleeding (more than just oozing small amounts of blood) recurs when the pressure is released, reapply direct pressure to the wound for another 15 minutes. Direct pressure may be applied up to 3 times for 15 minutes each (45 minutes total). If mild bleeding continues after 45 minutes of direct pressure, use the Check Your Symptoms section to determine your next steps.

Occasionally a puncture wound causes bleeding underneath the skin, but only a small amount of blood comes out of the wound. When this happens, the area around the puncture wound may become swollen and bruised. If the bleeding causes blood to collect in the wound site (wound hematoma), the risk of an infection increases.

While following the steps to stop the bleeding, watch for signs of shock in the injured person, including:

  • Passing out (losing consciousness).
  • Feeling very dizzy or lightheaded, like the person may pass out.
  • Feeling very weak or having trouble standing up.
  • Being less alert. The person may suddenly be unable to respond to questions, or he or she may be confused, restless, or fearful.

For more information, see the topic Shock.

Last Updated: June 10, 2008

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine

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