Emergency! What to Do First? | Reader's Digest

Emergency! What to Do First?

A quick first-aid update on caring for a bleeding wound.

By Michael F. Roizen | MD from Reader's Digest | July 2007

Q: I fell in my boat and cut my leg badly. I stopped the bleeding with a towel, but it made me realize I need a first-aid update. What should I have done?

A: Seeing blood can be a scary thing, so it’s no wonder people don’t always remember what to do after a cut, gouge or gaping skin split. You did the right thing by using a towel (as long as it was clean and not covered in fish scales). You shouldn’t use a tourniquet unless that’s the only way to stop a serious geyser.

Once the bleeding has stopped, wash out any dirt or gunk that’s gotten in. Then, whether the wound hurts or not, go to an ER so docs can determine whether you need antibiotics, stitches or a tetanus booster shot. To relieve the pain, try aspirin. Our rule is this: Don’t put anything on a wound that you wouldn’t put in your eye. So that means water and saline solution are okay. Ointments and whiskey, not so much.