First aid

Updated 09 June 2014

Severe bleeding

Severe bleeding is usually the result of a stab wound, gunshot, a severe blow, a deep cut, or a fractured pelvis or femur.

Severe bleeding can rapidly lead to shock, loss of consciousness or even death. It is usually the result of a stab wound, gunshot, a severe blow, a deep cut, or a fractured pelvis or femur.

Warning: Never touch someone's blood without latex gloves unless you are certain of the person's HIV or hepatitis B status. If gloves are not available, use plastic bags.

Home treatment

  • Call an ambulance.
  • Apply firm pressure directly on the wound with a clean pad, bandage or even a piece of clothing. Apply pressure around an embedded object.
  • Elevate the injured limb. Lie the person down.
  • Remove any obvious superficial dirt and debris from the wound. Do not attempt to clean the wound or probe it. If an object is embedded in the wound, don't remove it. If the wound is abdominal and organs have been displaced, don’t try to reposition them. Cover with a wet dressing or cloth.
  • If the bandage becomes soaked with blood, do not remove it. Apply a fresh bandage over it.
  • Continue to apply pressure for 10 minutes. If bleeding stops, bind the original wound dressing tightly with a clean bandage. Check for circulation beyond the bandage every 10 minutes, and loosen the bandage slightly if it is restricting circulation. Do not use a tourniquet.
  • If bleeding does not stop despite continued pressure on the wound, apply firm pressure to the main artery between the wound and heart. Squeeze the artery against the bone. With your other hand, continue to apply pressure on the wound.
  • While waiting for help to arrive, immobilise the injured limb and don't give the person anything to eat or drink. Treat for shock if necessary.

Signs of internal bleeding

With internal bleeding, a person can lose a huge amount of blood with no visible bleeding. Suspect internal bleeding if a person has been in a car accident, has suffered a severe blow to the body or head or has fallen from a height.

Signs include coughing up or the vomiting of blood, bleeding from the ears, nose, rectum or vagina, bruising on the chest, abdomen or neck, wounds that have penetrated the skull, chest or abdomen, abdominal tenderness or swelling or fractures. Signs of shock may be present. Get help immediately if you suspect internal bleeding.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.