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Adult putting pressure on bleeding cut on child's arm

Respond to Bleeding Like a Pro

It can happen in the blink of an eye—a slip with the knife while preparing a big dinner, a lost grip with a tool while working in the garage, or a sharp edge sliding across your finger while cleaning. Cuts or lacerations can be a serious outcome from these and other common scenarios.

What should I do first?

Stay calm. Take a quick look at the laceration to check for size and if there are any foreign objects or dirt still embedded in it, so you know what you’re dealing with. Don’t take the time to clean it yet.

“Grab a clean cloth or sterile bandage and work on controlling the bleeding with pressure from your hand,” said Advance ER physician Dr. Alan Dennington. “After a minute, you may be able to transfer the pressure by using a bandage tie or adhesive tape if the wound is not bleeding too severely. If it is bleeding severely, maintain pressure with your hand.”

If there is an embedded object, don’t put pressure on top of it. Also, if the wound is in your eye, don’t use pressure.

The bleeding is severe. Now what?

Once you have applied a cloth with pressure, position yourself so the wound is elevated above your heart. If the cloth soaks through, don’t remove it. Just place another layer of cloth or bandage over the top of it. Keep pressure on it at all times.

A tourniquet is only to be used in a life-threatening emergency, such as a lost limb or severed artery. Dial 911 and ask for instructions before applying a tourniquet. Make note of the time since the EMS will need to know exactly how long it has been applied.

Time to go.

If at all possible, have someone drive you to the nearest Advance ER. Try not to drive yourself since the loss of blood will affect your driving ability. If an ambulance has been called, keep warm since you may experience some shock symptoms, lie down and keep the wound elevated above heart level.

For moms and dads.

If it is your child who has suffered the injury, remember to stay calm. “It takes a valiant effort to not lose your cool when your little one is bleeding, but it is imperative that you do so,” said Dr. Dennington. “Your child can read you like a book. If you’re crying and talking a mile a minute, he or she will know the situation is serious and will become more upset. This will elevate the heart rate and increase the blood flow to the wound.”

Temporarily treat the wound and bring your child into your neighborhood Advance ER as quickly as possible. Our friendly staff and child-centric rooms, complete with cartoons and treats, will be a welcoming environment in which to recover.

Meet Dr. James Alan Dennington:

James Alan Dennington, M.D., is board-certified in emergency medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, Dallas, TX. He specializes in emergency medicine including wound care and closure. Dr. Dennington has been providing quality medical care for a decade for patients of all ages.