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 Emergency & First Aid: Bleeding: First Aid for Bleeding - Emergency Conditions 
American Institute for Preventive Medicine ©


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.

Skin wounds are common causes of bleeding.

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.
  • Dizziness. Fainting. Weakness.
  • Lethargy. 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).

  • Causes

    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.

  • Treatment

    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.
  • Questions to Ask

    Are any of these problems present?

  • A body part has been amputated.
  • Bleeding from a wound is severe.
  • Blood spurts from the wound and it is not controlled with direct pressure.
  • Signs of shock.

  • (Note: Give first aid as needed.)

    Are any of these problems present?

  • Bleeding comes from a deep wound (it appears to go down to the muscle or bone) and/or a bone is exposed.
  • The skin on or around the wound site hangs open.
  • A deformity is at the injury site.
  • Bleeding from what appears to be a minor wound continues after 20 minutes of applied pressure.
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