It’s an expression that goes without saying: when you are prepared for a crisis, you are less likely to panic. But how many of us have taken it to heart?
There are some fairly significant ways to be prepared for all the unexpected things that happen in life—like saving the life of a person with a massive bleed.
A person who is bleeding from an injury can die within five minutes. Chances are, the ‘first responder’ on the scene of a traumatic situation will be a private citizen. Do you have an individual first aid kit (IFAK), and if you do, do you know what’s in it or how to use it?
Here’s a hint. You’ll need more than the basic equipment that takes care of minor cuts, bruises, and burns. Bleeding injuries are in a whole other realm. Here are 8 things you should have in your IFAK if you find yourself on the scene of a massive bleeding event.
1. Disposable gloves.
Gloves keep your hands clean and help protect you from exposure to blood-borne viruses and bodily fluids. These gloves are meant to be disposable. Never wash or reuse them; discard them immediately after tending to the injured person. That means, do not get in your car and drive away with them still on your hands! Yep, we’ve seen that happen. Other tips for gloves:
- AVOID latex gloves because the person you are treating may have a latex sensitivity.
- DO use Nitrile or vinyl gloves.
- AVOID black colored gloves because it can be difficult to see punctures or defects in the gloves, which can leave you exposed to contamination.
- AVOID touching your face with your gloved hands.
2. Trauma Shears/Klever Kutter.
To get to a person’s injury, you may need to cut away clothing or a seatbelt. Your trauma shears should be rugged with a blunt tip so you can safely get between the skin and the clothing. Time is of the essence, so the fastest way to cut and remove clothing is to rip through the seams and hems.
Remember this: studies show that when a tourniquet is properly used to slow blood flow, odds of survival increase over 500%! If you’ve tried direct pressure and the spurting injury hasn’t stopped, use a tourniquet. Tourniquets are placed on the bleeding limb several inches above the part of the injury that is closest to the heart. Because not all limbs are created equal in size and shape, make sure you stock a variety of tourniquet options and sizes. Here’s a tip: Some tourniquets are more intuitive than others, but all require practice.
A deep or bloody wound that doesn’t respond to pressure needs to be packed—immediately, deeply, and tightly! Pack gauze into the wound with your finger while at the same time applying pressure. Putting your fingers into a wound probably won’t happen without some hesitation, but just remember, you aren’t going to hurt the injured.
5. Hemostatic agents.
These blood stoppers contain active ingredients that when poured into the wound speed up the clotting process and help stabilize the injured person. Blood stoppers are especially useful when it’s difficult to apply the right force of direct pressure to the wound. Here’s a tip: Save the packaging for medical personnel so they’ll know what you used.
6. Pressure and compression bandages.
Compression is the ultimate response for a bleeding injury. Once you’ve packed a wound, apply a pressure dressing to maintain pressure and keep the wound packing in place.
7. Chest seals or occlusive dressings.
Chest and abdominal wounds like a gunshot or a stab are the most difficult to stop outside of a hospital setting. Chest seals or dressings placed directly over the hole in the open cavity allows air and blood to escape while preventing the re-entry of either.
8. A Sharpie.
Yes, the permanent marker may not seem like something you would need in your IFAK, but it is, in fact, an important tool to have in case of a massive bleeding event. Use it to write down the time you applied a tourniquet, what you packed the wound with, and what type of antiseptic was used. All these things are important for EMS or the incoming medical facility personnel to know.
With so many proven products to stop and control severe bleeding injuries available, make sure you purchase an IFAK based on your budget, your purpose, and your training level. We invite you to explore our complete bleed kit solutions or find a distributor near you.