Once upon a time, every well-trained Boy Scout in America learned how to stop bleeding with a tourniquet. But studies show this method causes more harm than good. “Only in the most dire circumstances would you want to put a tourniquet on somebody,” says Pattavina. Tourniquets can increase the risk of tissue damage or even the loss of a limb, and since there are other methods that can slow the blood flow—and preserve life—without the loss of the limb, tourniquets are out.
Apply direct pressure to the wound. This is what the Red Cross has always recommended and it’s the best solution, says VanRooyen. Simply place a clean cloth on the wound and press firmly; don’t remove the cloth, even if it gets saturated. If necessary, add more cloths right on top of the first. Applying direct pressure reduces blood flow to the wound. This should stop the bleeding and promote clotting, but still leaves blood circulating to the rest of the limb, says VanRooyen.
If that’s not enough, you can further slow the blood flow by applying pressure to the main artery of the upper arm or leg, depending on the site of the wound. You can learn about this procedure in a first-aid course or through the American Red Cross at redcross.org.
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