Care for External Bleeding and Wounds

Majority of First Aid Courses include basic skills and concepts in addressing simple to morbid cases of traumatic injuries that result to blood loss. Basic First Aid Training combines the fundamental and necessary concepts of wound care and life saving techniques in managing victims with open wounds whether it is a simple cut in the finger or a severe and life threatening injury that involves severe blood loss and bleeding. Having the basic knowledge of simple wound care and the dynamics of blood loss can significantly help any individual avoid infections, prevent disability and mortality.

What is external bleeding?

External bleeding refers to any instance wherein blood exits the circulatory system via an open wound as a result from an underlying medical condition, physical traumatic injury or a combination of the two. The term hemorrhage is a severe form of bleeding large amounts of blood which can happen either internally or externally in a short amount of time.

Recognizing the different types of external bleeding

  1. Capillary bleeding oozes very slowly from the open wound and it is the most common type of bleeding which is generally very easy to control.
  2. Venous bleeding flows much steadily and since there is less pressure from the venous system, blood doesn’t spurt out rapidly. Although not as severe as uncontrolled arterial bleeding if not properly managed huge quantities of blood can be lost.
  3. Arterial bleeding gushes intermittently with every pulse due to the pressure of the arterial wall that and heart’s pumping action. This bleeding is very difficult to control and can quickly lead to large amounts of blood loss in a very short time unless proper care is given.

Care for external bleeding

Care for serious external bleeding usually involves a quick response to control active bleeding while protecting the wound from further damage. A minor or shallow wound with capillary bleeding should be washed with running water and soap. Avoid rigorous rubbing of the wound to prevent the risk of wound infection and further injury.

Here is a short YouTube video that will explain further on how to take care for external bleeding and wounds

For severe bleeding (venous and arterial bleeding), immediately apply pressure bandage by placing a clean cloth over the wound and apply moderate pressure to prevent extensive blood loss until the victim is taken to the nearest hospital for proper medical care. In addition, seek medical care promptly for bleeding wounds caused by puncture or animal bites because of the high risk of rabies and tetanus infection. Moreover, only medical personnel with First Aid Certification in rabies control and prevention are permitted to prepare and administer anti – rabies vaccines to victims of animal bites.

Proper use of Dressings and Bandages 

A proper first aid kit should have the basic items such as clean bandages and sterile dressings. A dressing is a special sterile covering that is applied directly over the wound to help prevent infection and help absorb blood. Sterile dressings come in various sizes but the common ones are 2” and 4” squares which are mainly used for superficial and less serious wounds.

A bandage on the other hand is also similar to a dressing but is usually rolled and depending on the material it is mainly used to cover the wound and is applied with minimal pressure to help control bleeding and help stabilize the primary dressing in place.

The important thing to remember in using bandages and dressings is to periodically change them as often as possible in order to prevent infection. Sterile gauzes unlike bandages normally have expiration dates so make sure to replace the first aid kit with fresh supplies in a regular basis.


Alton, T. et al (2012). First Aid, CPR and AED Standard 6th Ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning


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