Learn how to provide first aid for external bleeding.

June 11, 2015

What Causes Bleeding?

Bleeding, especially external skin bleeding, occurs when children cut themselves on pointed or sharp objects. Most skin bleeding stops by itself or after pressure is applied to the wound, but more serious bleeding may develop if the cut is very deep or large. Types of bleeding include arterial bleeding (from arteries), when the blood is pumped out in spurts and is bright red, and venous bleeding (from veins), when blood oozes more slowly and is dark red.

In the worst cases, bleeding can become life-threatening unless the correct measures are taken quickly. No matter what type of bleeding your child has, it is important to make certain that circulatory failure and loss of consciousness does not develop. If too much blood is lost, the heart will not have enough blood to pump around the body, the blood pressure will fall, and shock will occur. The danger signals of shock are a fast pulse, paleness, coldness, clammy skin, and dizziness. Fainting will occur as a result of the shock.

Treatment for Bleeding

Do not try to take out foreign bodies that are stuck in the wound, which may result in heavy bleeding. Try to keep the child warm; wrap clothes or rugs around him/her if you are outdoors.

Venous Bleeding

For venous bleeding, the blood is dark red and usually oozes or seeps from the wound in an even amount. Bleeding stops by itself or after pressure or a compress is applied to the wound. Follow these steps to stop venous bleeding.

  • Place your baby on your lap. If you suspect a broken limb or trauma to the head, neck or spinal cord, do not move your baby.
  • Apply a compress (a piece of clean gauze or folded washcloth) on the wound and apply pressure for five minutes. Use the palm of your hand if a compress isn't available.
  • If the bleeding continues, get a fresh compress and apply pressure for an additional five minutes.
  • When the bleeding stops, use a mild antiseptic solution to clean the wound and apply a bandage. If the wound starts bleeding again, call your doctor, who will determine if the wound requires stitches.

Arterial Bleeding

For arterial bleeding, blood is bright red and pumps out of the wound in spurts from a deep or large wound. Arterial bleeding is an emergency, as it can cause a life-threatening loss of blood. Follow these steps to stop arterial bleeding.

  • Call 911 first and then take prompt action to stop the blood flow. Remain calm and try to keep your baby calm. Anxiety can increase his heart rate and cause more blood to flow.
  • Lay your baby in a position that elevates his legs by six inches, which will increase the flow of blood to his heart and brain and reduce the risk of shock. Do not move your baby if you suspect broken arms or legs or if there is any trauma to the head, neck or spinal cord.
  • Place a compress (a piece of clean gauze or folded washcloth) on the wound and apply pressure for five minutes. Use the palm of your hand if a compress isn't available. You can also place a stone or other firm object on top of the compress, which can be held firmly in place with strips of gauze or cloth.
  • If the bleeding seeps through the compress, apply a fresh compress over the existing one and continue to exert pressure.
  • If possible, elevate the bleeding body part above your baby's heart.
  • Continue to apply pressure for an additional five minutes or while you wait for the ambulance to arrive. Do not remove the compress, even if the bleeding stops.

Always call 911 or the doctor immediately if:

  • You cannot stop the bleeding or if the wound starts bleeding again after one hour.
  • There are signs of arterial bleeding (a deep wound with pulsing, bright red bleeding).
  • Your child has signs of shock (feeling sleepy, woozy, or lightheaded) or circulatory failure.
  • You suspect that your child has internal bleeding.

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