Dealing with Bleeding

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This leaflet is created from first aid advice provided by St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid charity. This advice is no substitute for first aid training - find a training course near you.

Cuts and grazes are common injuries that can usually be treated at home. A cut is when the skin is fully broken, and a graze is when only the top layers of skin are scraped off.

Usually, all you need to do is clean the cut or graze to reduce infection and apply pressure and raise the injury to stop the bleeding. The wound should heal by itself in a few days.

What to look for

If the bleeding doesn't stop, or if there's a foreign object in the cut, or you think it might be infected, then you should tell them to see a health care professional.

What you need to do

  • Clean the wound by rinsing it under running water or using alcohol-free wipes.
  • Pat it dry using a gauze swab and cover it with sterile gauze. If you don't have these, then use a clean, non-fluffy cloth.
  • Raise and support the part of the body that's injured. If it's a hand or arm, raise it above the head. If it's a lower limb, lay them down and raise the cut area above the level of the heart. This will help stop the bleeding.
  • Remove the gauze covering the wound and apply a sterile dressing.
  • If you think there's any risk of infection then suggest they see a health care professional.

When bleeding is severe, it can be dramatic and distressing. If someone's bleeding isn't controlled quickly, they may develop shock and lose consciousness. Shock does not mean emotional shock, but is a life-threatening condition, often caused by loss of blood.

If someone's bleeding from their mouth or nose, they may find it hard to breathe, so you should keep a close eye on them in case they become unresponsive.

If there's an object in their wound, don't press directly onto it, as it will hurt, but leave it in there and bandage around it.

With all open wounds, there's a risk of infection, so wash your hands and use gloves (if you have any) to help prevent any infection passing between you both.

What you need to do

Your priority is to stop the bleeding. Protect yourself by wearing gloves.

If the wound is covered by the casualty's clothing, remove or cut the clothes to uncover the wound.

If there's an object in the wound

If there's an object in there, don't pull it out, because it may be acting as a plug to reduce the bleeding. Instead, leave it in and apply pressure either side of it with a pad (such as a clean cloth) or fingers, until a sterile dressing is available.

If there's no object in the wound

Follow the steps below for treating severe bleeding.

Note: these hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid. St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the country.

Adapted from the St John Ambulance leaflets: cuts and grazes and severe bleeding. Copyright for this leaflet is with St John Ambulance.

Now read about Simple Wound Management and Suturing

Did you find this information useful?

Original Author:
St John Ambulance
Current Version:
St John Ambulance
Peer Reviewer:
St John Ambulance
Document ID:
28627 (v2)
Last Checked:
21 November 2016
Next Review:
21 November 2019

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.