How To Apply A Tourniquet The Right Way To Stop Excessive Bleeding

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For those who don’t know what it is and what it is used for, a tourniquet can seem like a scary piece of medical equipment. Based on common misunderstanding and perhaps some overdramatized situations on TV, it is not uncommon to find people who believe that putting on a tourniquet means you are going to lose that arm or leg.

In fact, when used correctly, a tourniquet could help to save your life or limb. Only in very severe situations does a limb have to be amputated. In most cases, tourniquets could potentially save your life because they stop a person from fatally bleeding out before help can arrive.

What Is A Tourniquet?

A tourniquet is a one-piece band that constricts an extremity. The purpose of a tourniquet is to keep hemorrhaging at bay during an emergency until the proper medical care can be received by the victim. A tourniquet is required when a victim is experiencing severe extremity bleeding that fails to stop even when direct pressure is applied on the affected area.

A tourniquet is a useful and life-saving piece of equipment that is an absolute essential for your medical or first aid kit. If you do not have one as part of your first aid kit, consider investing in one. You never know when a tourniquet might be needed to save your own or someone else’s life.

A tourniquet is easy enough to apply if the wound is not in an area of the body where it is impossible to strap on a tourniquet. An example of such an area would be if the victim was injured around the shoulders. In that case, it would be nearly impossible for a tourniquet to be applied correctly. However, if the wound is on the victim’s arms or legs, then a tourniquet is going to be your best line of defense to stop an excessive bleeding scenario.

How To Use A Tourniquet The Right Way

A tourniquet is designed for rapid application. You should be able to apply a tourniquet to yourself or on a victim within fifteen seconds. To apply a tourniquet on a victim who is experiencing excessive bleeding of an extremity, this is what you will need to do:

  • Step 1 – Locate the source of the injury first. Next, using gloved hands, if possible, take your tourniquet and apply the strap directly above the bleeding extremity. For example, if the victim has an injury on the wrist, then you will take the tourniquet and apply it a few inches above the wrist.
  • Step 2 – Once you have your tourniquet secured above the extremity, you are going to tighten the band and make it as tight as you possibly can. Remember that one of the most common reasons for tourniquet failure is that the initial tightening of the strap is not enough. The victim might be uncomfortable or in pain from the tight strap, but remember that this is something that has to be done in order to save their life.
  • Step 3 – Once you have your tourniquet as tight as possible, use the windlass to pull in the pressure of the tourniquet, and keep twisting the windlass until the blood flow ceases. Keep twisting until you no longer have a distal pulse on the extremity. Secure the windlass and you have a life-preserving tourniquet application.
  • Step 4 – The final step on the tourniquet application process is to mark the time. It is very important that you do this because the medical professionals will need this information. If a tourniquet has been left on too long, the victim might need some medication before the tourniquet comes off.

One final tip is that if you applied the tourniquet on the victim before removing their clothing because you were in a hurry, go back and revisit this step. Once your tourniquet has been secured, expose as much of the wounded area as possible. This is necessary to ensure that the emergency room medical personnel are fully aware that there is a tourniquet in place on the victim. In an emergency situation where medical personnel are rushing about to save the victim’s life, there is a risk that the tourniquet might go unnoticed, especially if the victim is injured in more than one area.

Once a tourniquet has been applied, it is important that you do not remove the tourniquet for any reason. A tourniquet should only be removed by an experienced medical professional or a paramedic. In certain situations, you might find that the victim requires more than one tourniquet. For example, if you find that the victim is still bleeding even after the tourniquet has been applied, try tightening the windlass once more. If that doesn’t work, then this would be one of those situations where more than one tourniquet is needed to help stop the excessive bleeding.

Alan Curtis loves all forms of outdoor recreation, and with decades of outdoor survival experience knows that being prepared is the best first aid of all.