Bloody hands

First Aid for Bleeding:Emergency Conditions

Signs & Symptoms

Most adults can donate a pint of blood without harmful side effects. Losing a quart of blood, quickly, though, can lead to shock and even death. In a child, losing a pint (or less depending on the child’s size) can put the child in extreme danger.

For External Bleeding

  • A skin wound.
  • Dark red blood gushes or flows from veins.
  • Bright red blood spurts from arteries.
  • Blood oozes from capillaries. The bleeding usually clots off by itself.

For Internal Bleeding

  • Vomiting or coughing up true, red blood. This includes blood-tinged sputum.
  • A bruise on the skin of the chest or abdomen, especially if it is in a place where no blow was struck.
  • Fractured ribs.
  • Fainting. Weakness.
  • Excessive sleepiness. Mental status changes. These can occur with trauma to the head, even if it is mild.
  • Fast pulse. Cold, moist skin.
  • Stools contain bright red blood or are black (not due to taking iron).


For External Bleeding

  • Abrasions (scraped skin). Lacerations (cut skin with jagged edges). Punctures. (See Skin Injuries / Wounds.)
  • Knife, gunshot, or other wounds can graze or penetrate the skin. These can damage internal blood vessels and body organs.
  • Injury wounds.

For Internal Bleeding

  • A bruise. This is bleeding from and damage to tissues beneath the skin.
  • Damage to blood vessels and/or internal structures. This includes a blunt injury that does not break the skin, a bleeding ulcer, and an aneurysm.
  • Bleeding disorders. Taking blood-thinning drugs can result in both internal and external bleeding.


When bleeding occurs, the goal is to find the source, stop or lessen the bleeding, and help the body cope with the loss of blood.

  • For severe bleeding, treatment includes first aid measures and emergency medical care.
  • For minor bleeding, treatment depends on the cause and other medical conditions present.
  • Bleeding disorders need to be treated by a doctor.
Using rubber gloves when performing blood work
Wear waterproof gloves or use another waterproof material when you give first aid for bleeding.

Self-Care / First Aid

For Severe Bleeding

  • Without delay, apply direct pressure to the wound using a sterile dressing or clean cloths. {Note: If the cut is large and the edges of it gape open, pinch the edges of the wound while you apply pressure.}
  • Call 9-1-1 or take the person to nearest hospital emergency department.
  • Do not remove an object that is stuck in a wound. Pack it in place with padding. Put tape around the padding so it doesn’t move.
  • If bleeding continues before getting medical help, put extra cloths, etc. on top of existing ones. Keep putting pressure on the wound until bleeding stops or until medical help takes over.
  • The most important thing to do is to apply direct pressure on the bleeding site. Some health experts advise to do these things, too, if needed:
  • Elevate the wounded area higher than heart level while applying pressure. Do this if no bone is broken.
  • Apply pressure to a pressure point; if bleeding still continues after 15 to 20 minutes of direct pressure, Use the pressure point closest to the bleeding site that is between the wound and the heart. (See Pressure Points at right.)
  • Don’t apply a tourniquet except to save a life.
  • While giving first aid for bleeding, keep looking for signs of shock.
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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021