Minor bleeding episodes are common, easy to treat, and have no long-term consequence. Major bleeding can be very dangerous. Significant bleeding can occur in many situations, even underwater or in the wilderness. Accidental cuts, lacerations, or puncture wounds from sharp objects could cause extensive bleeding. Extensive bleeding can cause a drop in blood pressure and decreased organ blood flow, which could lead to shock. Always check a person who is bleeding for other injuries such as a significant head injury, fractures, or dislocations.
Bleeding can lead to the following symptoms:
- Pale, cool, clammy skin
- Fast heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Death within seconds to minutes (in severe cases)
- For severe bleeding, apply immediate, direct pressure to the wound with any available, clean material. Continue pressure until the bleeding is controlled.
- Elevate the wound above the affected individual's heart. The person should be lying down with the legs elevated.
- Apply a tourniquet only if other means to control life-threatening bleeding do not work. Tighten the tourniquet only enough to stop the bleeding. Note the time the tourniquet was applied and remove as soon as possible.
When to Seek Medical Care for Bleeding
- For any bleeding that is difficult to control with pressure or requires a tourniquet, call 911 as soon as possible.
- Obtain medical treatment as soon as possible.
- A trained health care professional may place permanent or temporary sutures (stitches) to control the bleeding.
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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care
REFERENCE: Ballas, M. et. al. Bleeding and Bruising: A Diagnostic Work-up. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Apr 15;77(8):1117-1124.