The Ultimate First-Aid Manual: Heavy Bleeding

Check out what to do when it's much more than a simple scrape or puncture wound.

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Apply direct pressure until bleeding stops. Pack the wound with absorbent gauze, apply direct pressure on top, and elevate it above the heart. If it soaks through, add more gauze on top and keep applying pressure. When bleeding stops, clean the wound thoroughly with a high-pressure stream of water. Apply antibiotic ointment to a sterile dressing and completely cover the wound, securing it with tape or roll gauze. Gaping wound? Press the edges together gently and hold them there with wound closure strips. Then apply the ointment and sterile dressing.
Check all wounds (including burns and abrasions) regularly for signs of infection:

  • increasing pain, heat, redness, and swelling;
  • more than a little white pus;
  • appearance of red streaks just under the skin near the wound;
  • fever.

If these signs appear and grow steadily worse, find a doctor.

NOTE: Do not close wounds caused by animal bites or crushing injuries; anything involving damaged tendons, ligaments, or bones; or those too heavily contaminated to clean thoroughly. All have a high risk of infection. Instead, pack the wound with moist gauze, cover with dry gauze, and evacuate the patient.

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: How to Treat a Gaping Wound
Here’s how to stop the bleeding, close the wound, and prevent infection.

Learn how to treat bleeding cuts, and you just might save your hiking partner’s life–or your own.