How to Control Bleeding

Regardless how severe, all bleeding can be controlled. If left uncontrolled, bleeding may lead to shock or even death.

Most bleeding can be stopped before the ambulance arrives at the scene. While you're performing the steps for controlling bleeding, you should also be calling for an ambulance to respond. Bleeding control is only part of the equation.


Direct Pressure

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Hold pressure directly on the wound

Rod Brouhard

The first step in controlling a bleeding wound is to plug the hole. Blood needs to clot in order to start the healing process and stop the bleeding. Just like ice won't form on the rapids of a river, blood will not coagulate when it's flowing.

The best way to stop it is to...stop it.

  • Put pressure directly on the wound.
  • If you have some type of gauze, use it. Gauze pads hold the blood on the wound and help the components of the blood to stick together, promoting clotting.
  • If you don't have gauze, terrycloth towels work almost as well.

If the gauze or towel soaks through with blood, add another layer. Never take off the gauze. Peeling blood-soaked gauze off a wound removes vital clotting agents and encourages bleeding to resume.

Once bleeding is controlled, take steps to treat the victim for shock.


Elevate Above the Heart

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Elevate the wound to slow blood flow

Rod Brouhard

Gravity makes blood flow down easier than it flows up. If you hold one hand above your head and the other at your side, the lower hand will be red while the higher one is pale.

Step two to control bleeding uses this principle.

  • Elevate the wound above the heart to slow the flow of blood.
  • As the blood slows, it becomes easier to stop it with direct pressure.
  • Remember, the wound must be above the heart and you must keep direct pressure on it.

Use Pressure Points

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Pressure points should be between the wound and the heart.

Rod Brouhard

Pressure points are areas of the body where blood vessels run close to the surface. By pressing on these blood vessels, blood flow further away will be slowed, allowing direct pressure to stop bleeding.

When using pressure points, make sure you are pressing on a point closer to the heart than the wound. Pressing on a blood vessel farther from the heart than the wound will have no effect on the bleeding.

Remember to also keep the wound elevated above the heart and keep pressure directly on the wound.

Common pressure points:



This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

Tourniquets should almost never be used.

Rod Brouhard

When should you use a tourniquet? The simple answer: almost never.

Tourniquets severely restrict or occlude blood flow to the arm or leg to which they are applied. Using a tourniquet to stop bleeding has the potential to damage the entire arm or leg. People lose limbs from the use of tourniquets.

If a tourniquet doesn't cause a loss of function in the extremity, then it probably wasn't applied correctly.

Applying a tourniquet is a desperate move—only for dire emergencies where the choice between life and limb must be made.

To use a tourniquet:

  • Wrap a cravat (nonstretchy material like terry cloth or linen) around an extremity and tighten it with a windlass stuck through the bandage (see photo).
  • Tighten until the wound stops bleeding. If there's any bleeding at the wound after placing a tourniquet, then the tourniquet must be tightened.
  • It's important to note the time a tourniquet was applied and write it down somewhere handy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I stop bleeding?

Place direct pressure on the wound until the bleeding stops, ideally with a clean cloth, tissue, or piece of gauze. If the blood soaks through the material, do not remove it; simply put more material on top and keep pressing.

If the wound is on the arm or leg, raise the limb above the level of the heart. People trained in first aid may also press on pressure points between the heart and wound to slow the blood flow and promote coagulation (clotting).

How do I stop a nosebleed?

To treat a nosebleed, sit down and firmly press the soft part of your nose just above the nostrils for 10 minutes or more.

Instead of tilting your head back, lean forward and breathe through your mouth. This will allow the blood to drain into the nose, speeding coagulation, rather than letting it run freely down the back of your throat.

How do I stop heavy menstrual bleeding with clots?

In addition to using tampons and doubling up pads, taking an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen) may help reduce blood loss.

If you are prone to frequent heavy flows (menorrhagia), your doctor may prescribe an oral contraceptive or hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) that can correct the hormonal imbalances that promote menorrhagia. There is also a drug called Lysteda (tranexamic acid) that can be taken at the time of bleeding.

When to See a Doctor

See a doctor immediately if you soak through more than one pad or tampon per hour over several hours and experience shortness of breath or fatigue.

How to stop bleeding gums?

Rinse your mouth with water and gently press a clean moistened gauze against the gums until the bleeding stops. When the bleeding stops, rinsing with salt water or antiseptic mouthwash can help reduce bacteria and inflammation.

If the bleeding is significant, you can hold an ice pack against the gums for no more than 10 minutes. Keep the ice pack moving to prevent frostbite. (Yes, gums can get frostbite.)

To prevent bleeding gums, practice good oral hygiene, quit smoking, and have your doctor check if you have any vitamin deficiencies that can lead to bleeding gums.

How to stop a cut from bleeding?

Smaller cuts are treated similarly to larger wounds. Place pressure on the cut with a clean tissue. When the bleeding stops, place the cut under cold running water to remove any debris. Gently apply antiseptic cream, and cover with an adhesive bandage.

What home remedies can stop bleeding?

There are many different home remedies that people turn to stop bleeding, some of which work better than others. Some of the more common home remedies include:

  • Applying a wet green tea bag against bleeding gums
  • Dabbing minor cuts or scrapes with witch hazel
  • Sucking on a zinc lozenge to reduce gum bleeding
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Article Sources
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