The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Emergencies and First Aid
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Direct Pressure to Stop Bleeding

A wound that is deep, bleeding heavily, or has blood spurting from it (caused by bleeding from an artery), may not clot and may not stop bleeding.

Immediate care 
Call out for someone to get help, or call 911 yourself. Elevate the wound and apply direct pressure.


Direct Pressure for Bleeding
1. Elevate the wound above the heart and apply firm pressure with a clean compress (such as a clean, heavy gauze pad, washcloth, T-shirt, or sock) directly on the wound. Call out for someone to get help, or call 911 yourself. Do not remove a pad that is soaked through with blood; you will disturb any blood clots that have started to form to help stop the bleeding. If blood soaks through, place another pad on top of the soaked one and continue applying direct pressure. 2. When the bleeding slows or stops, tie the pad firmly in place with gauze strips, a necktie, strips of sheet, or a shoelace. Do not tie so tightly that blood flow to the rest of the limb is cut off. Stay with the person and keep the wound elevated until medical help arrives.

 

Pressure Points for Severe Bleeding

If severe bleeding does not stop with direct pressure and elevation, apply direct pressure to an artery. Use direct pressure on an artery along with elevation and direct pressure on the wound. There are specific major arteries in the body where pressure should be placed (see illustration on facing page).

When you apply pressure to an artery, you stop bleeding by pushing the artery against bone. Press down firmly on the artery between the bleeding site and the heart. If there is severe bleeding, also apply firm pressure directly to the bleeding site.

To check if bleeding has stopped, release your fingers slowly from the pressure point, but do not release pressure at the bleeding site. If bleeding continues, continue to apply pressure to the artery. Continue until the bleeding stops or until help arrives. After bleeding stops, do not continue to apply pressure
to an artery for longer than 5 minutes.

Pressure Points for Bleeding
The circles show places to apply direct pressure on an artery in order to stop the flow of blood from an injury.


©2000–2006 President & Fellows of Harvard College

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