Severe Bleeding

Bleeding, technically known as hemorrhaging, describes the loss of blood from the circulatory system.

Bleeding can occur internally or externally, either through a natural opening such as the nose, ear, or mouth; or from a cut, scrape, or puncture to the skin.

Typically, a healthy person can endure a loss of 10–15% of their total blood volume before being at risk for serious medical complication.

First Aid for a person suffering from severe blood loss is crucial, if you are alone with a person who is bleeding profusely, immediately:

  • Lie the person down.
  • Put on a pair of gloves if you have them.
  • Check to see if a limb or extremity is the source of the bleeding injury, and if the limb does not appear to be fractured or broken, raise the injured area above the level of the person’s heart.
  • Get the person to apply direct pressure to the wound with their hand or hands to stem the blood flow, and immediately call 911.  If the person cannot apply pressure themselves, do it for them. You may need to pull the edges of the wound together before applying any pressure.
  • If an object is noticeably imbedded in the wound, do not remove the object as this may increase bleeding. Instead, apply pressure around the object.
  • As soon as the bleeding is controlled, call 911.
  • While waiting for 911, continue to apply pressure to the injury but do not apply a tourniquet. If it is done incorrectly, it may lead to an unnecessary serious injury to or loss of the leg or arm. If blood begins to saturate the dressing, do not remove it. Instead, add fresh padding over the top. If the injury occurred at home, cover the wound with a dressing, using sterile pads and a bandage (if possible) to hold them firmly in place until help arrives.

If the victim goes into shock before help arrives, do your best to protect them from breathing obstructions.  If possible, turn them on their side and loosen any restrictive clothing around the airway.  Check their breathing and pulse frequently, and begin CPR if necessary.

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Black Eye

A black eye is the result of an injury that causes bruising around the eye.  The bruising is typically caused by bleeding beneath the skin surrounding the eye. Sometimes, a black eye can indicate a more serious injury to the eye itself, and even a possible skull fracture.

Although most black eye injuries aren’t serious, bleeding within the eye is considered to be very serious. Bleeding in the eye area can reduce vision and damage the cornea. Call 911 immediately if the person displays symptoms of:

  • Bleeding from the eyeball
  • Blurred vision or loss of vision entirely
  • Confusion, dizziness, or loss of consciousness or
  • Two black eyes, which can indicate a serious injury to the head.

First Aid for minor black eye injuries can be performed by:

  • Applying a cold pack, ice, or a cold washcloth to the injury at least twice a day for the first 48 hours.  If using ice, use only one or two cubes at a time to avoid putting undesired pressure on the eye area.
  • Do not place a steak over the eye area.  Placing a steak over the eye is a common myth for black eye treatment.  However, a frozen bag of vegetables, such as peas, can be used as a lightweight alternative to applying a cold pack or ice.
  • If needed, use only acetaminophen or Tylenol for pain.  Do not give aspirin or ibuprofen when treating pain because these medications can potentially increase the risk of bleeding.
  • After 48 hours, switch from cold therapy to heat therapy by applying a warm compress for further treatment of the eye injury.

As with any injury, if the eye area does not improve, worsens, or begins to impair vision, seek medical attention right away.

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Human Bites

Human bite wounds, like animal bite wounds can be dangerous because the human mouth contains many different types of transmittable bacteria and viruses.

A person who has sustained a human bite wound that has broken the skin will need a tetanus shot within 48 hours if it has been over 5 years since their last booster.

The three general types of human bite injuries that can lead to complications are:

  • A closed-fist injury,
  • A chomping injury to the finger, and
  • A puncture-type wound to the head area caused by clashing with another person’s tooth.

First Aid for a human bite wound starts with stopping the bleeding:

  • Apply firm, direct pressure with sterile gauze or clean cloth until bleeding stops.  Wash the wound with mild soap and water for several minutes under running water.
  • Pat the area dry and apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
  • Protect the wound from further accidental injury by applying a clean gauze or bandage.
  • Change the dressing and continue to apply a fresh layer of antibiotic ointment at least twice a day.
  • Monitor the area for signs of infection such as swelling, painful redness, or puss.

Call 911 if blood is spurting from the wound and cannot be stopped within 10 minutes because deeper bite wounds may require stitches.  Tell the emergency health care provider if the person suffering a human bite to the hand has stiffness, numbness, or trouble moving fingers.  These symptoms indicate potential damage to tendons or nerves.

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Animal Bites

Most animal bites come from domestic pets; however, animal bites from non-immunized domestic pets and wild animals might transmit the rabies virus.

Rabies is a viral disease often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.

Rabies is more prevalent among wild animals such as bats, skunks, foxes and raccoons, and less commonly carried by dogs, cats, or rabbits.

First Aid for animal bites starts with evaluating the type of animal that initiated the bite, and the severity of the wound.

  • If you suspect the bite was caused by an animal that could potentially carry rabies, seek medical attention right away.  Getting an immediate vaccination can prevent rabies from developing once the virus has been transmitted.
  • For severe animal bite wounds that have torn into, or deeply punctured the skin, try to stop the bleeding with a clean, dry cloth, and seek medical attention.   You should also seek medical attention if the bite has punctured or torn the hand or fingers.
  • If the animal bite is mild, promptly wash the wound with a mild soap then rinse the area with water for 3 to 5 minutes. When finished, pat the area dry, apply an antibiotic ointment or cream, and cover the wound with a clean bandage.
  • Monitor the area surrounding the animal bite for signs of infection.  Seek medical help if you notice an increase in redness or swelling as well as any oozing around the site.

People who have contracted rabies from a bat bite before, were often unaware they had been bitten in the first place. That is largely due to the fact that bat bites are small, so they often go unnoticed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who sees a bat inside their home or tent, or comes into direct contact with a bat in any way, promptly discusses the situation with a health care professional.

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