Stopping Bleeding

Written by Linda Hepler, RN | Published on July 30, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on July 30, 2014

First Aid: Stopping Bleeding

Injuries and certain medical conditions can result in bleeding. This can trigger anxiety and fear, but bleeding has a healing purpose. Still, you need to understand how to treat common bleeding incidents, like cuts and bloody noses, as well as when to seek medical help.

Cuts and Wounds

When your skin is cut or scraped, you begin to bleed. This is because blood vessels in the area are damaged. Bleeding serves a useful purpose because it helps to clean out a wound. But too much bleeding can cause your body to go into shock. 

You cannot always judge the seriousness of a cut or wound by the amount it bleeds. Some serious injuries can bleed very little. On the other hand, cuts on the head, face, and mouth may bleed a lot because there are a lot of blood vessels in those areas.

Abdominal and chest wounds can be quite serious because internal organs may be damaged, which can cause internal bleeding and even shock. Abdominal and chest wounds are considered an emergency, and you should call for immediate medical help, especially if there are symptoms of shock, such as dizziness, weakness, pale and clammy skin, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate.

While waiting for medical care, give first aid treatment for shock. Have the injured person lie quietly with his or her feet elevated about 12 inches. Cover him or her with a blanket to maintain body warmth.

First Aid for Cuts and Wounds

  • Help the person to remain calm. If the cut is large or bleeding heavily, have them lie down. If the wound is on an arm or leg, raise the limb above the heart to slow bleeding.
  • Remove obvious debris from the wound, such as sticks or grass. If the object is embedded in the body, do NOT remove it.
  • If the cut is small, wash it out with soap and water. Do NOT clean a large wound.
  • After putting on clean latex gloves, apply firm pressure to the wound with a folded cloth or bandage for about 10 minutes. Do not remove the bandage to look at the wound during this time, as it may begin bleeding again. If blood soaks through, add another cloth or bandage and continue holding pressure on the cut for an additional 10 minutes.
  • When bleeding has stopped, tape a clean bandage over the cut.

Seek medical care for a cut or wound if:

  • it’s jagged or deep, or if it is a puncture wound.
  • it’s on the face
  • it’s the result of an animal bite
  • there is dirt that won’t come out after washing
  • the bleeding will not stop

Bloody Nose

A bloody nose is common in both children and adults. Most nosebleeds are not serious, especially in children. Yet, adults can have nosebleeds related to high blood pressure or hardening of the arteries, and it may be more difficult to stop them.

First Aid for a Nosebleed

  • Have the person sit down and lean his or her head forward. This will reduce pressure in the nasal veins and slow the bleeding.
  • Have them push the bleeding nostril firmly against the septum (the dividing wall in the nose). If the person is unable to do this, put on latex gloves and hold the nose for him or her for five to 10 minutes.
  • Once the nose stops bleeding, instruct the person not to blow his or her nose for several days. This could dislodge the clot and cause bleeding to begin again.

Seek medical help for a nosebleed if:

  • bleeding does not stop after about 20 minutes
  • the nosebleed is related to a fall or injury in which case the nose may have been broken
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