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How Do You Treat Severe External
Bleeding in the Wilderness?

It's essential that you have some basic principles of wilderness first aid and know how to apply them, even under stress. Even knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency situation. You can treat minor injuries and keep serious casualties stable until further help is available.

Follow these steps to treat severe external bleeding:

Step 1: After exposing the damaged area, press the edges of the wound together. If you cannot remove a foreign body from the wound, press the skin tightly up to the sides of the object.

Step 2: Lay the casualty down comfortably on the ground. Check for signs of broken bones in the affected limb, then raise the limb above the level of the casualty’s heart. Place a gauze pad or a clean dressing over the wound and apply pressure with your fingers or palm to stop the bleeding.

Step 3: Apply a sterile dressing (or clean material if dressings are unavailable) to the wound. Keep the arm elevated while it is being bandaged. If you have no material, exert pressure on the wound with your hands until bleeding ceases. Cover the wound.

Step 4: Bandage firmly, but not so tightly as to impede circulation. Should blood seep into the bandage, secure another pad and bandage over it. Build up pads on either side of any foreign body until the wound can be bandaged over without being pressed.

Step 5: Check the circulation beyond the bandage by pressing a nailbed, or the skin of a hand or foot, until it is pale. On releasing the pressure, the colour should return quickly. If the nailbed or skin remains pale, the dressing may be too tight and should be loosened.

Need more information on hiking, backpacing and surviving in the wilderness? We recommend Hugh McManners' books, available at Amazon.com.

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