Since someone can die within minutes of blood loss if there is no immediate intervention, uncontrolled bleeding is the number one cause of preventable death from trauma in the United States.

The unfortunate thing is that you don’t have to be in the military or an emergency response worker to find yourself in a situation where someone is bleeding uncontrollably.

You might be going about your business then you come across a car accident, a natural disaster, or any other emergency.

When you are in a situation where someone is bleeding profusely, and you are the only hope, besides dialing 911, you should try to stop the bleeding, so the person doesn’t lose their life.

While there are many ways you can stop the bleeding, one of the most effective ways is using a tourniquet.

Featuring a buckle and long skinny handle, the tourniquet is designed to stop bleeding on the arms and legs. You will find tourniquets in most trauma first aid kits, but you can also buy one online from a medical goods store or the American Red Cross.

Although the tourniquet is a life-saving device, you need to use it properly, so you don’t aggravate the condition or cause more injuries. To help you out, here is a guide on how to tie a tourniquet to stop bleeding:

Protect yourself

Even in the airplane, you are told to put the gas mask first on yourself before you think about your kids or anyone else in the event of an emergency. It’s the same thing with using the tourniquet. Before you even think about helping the other person, think about yourself. Are you protected?

To protect yourself from being infected with immunodeficiency diseases and other conditions, put on a pair of gloves. The best gloves to use are powder-free, latex-free gloves from your car or first aid kit.

The cool thing is most gloves are cheap, and you can easily find them anywhere, so even if you don’t have them with you, you can easily buy them from a nearby store.

Remember, regardless of the injured person’s condition, don’t touch them without first protecting yourself.

Expose the open wound

Once you are protected, now proceed to the injured person and expose their open wound. A popular saying in emergency medicine is “A happy trauma patient is a naked trauma patient,” as you can tell the extent of the injury, which helps you plan the next steps.

To expose the wound, remove the clothing over the injured area. You don’t need to be fancy about it. Just tear the shirt or pant leg to expose the injury. If the clothes are too tough and you can’t rip them with your hands, carefully cut them with your knife taking care not to hurt the injured person.

Apply firm direct pressure on the injured area

If you have gauze, use it on the wounded area but if you don’t have it, use a rag torn from the patient’s shirt, a washcloth, or towel to apply pressure.

While the homemade dressing materials are effective, avoid using them unless in times of an emergency or you are far away from civilization that you can’t access the medically recommended gauze. The reason for this is because the homemade materials are non-sterile, so they have high chances of causing infections that worsen the situation.

If you exert pressure on the area and still the bleeding isn’t stopping, use a tourniquet. And the beauty is you don’t have to have the traditional tourniquet. Any material that can provide blood flow occlusion, you can use as a tourniquet. A belt? Tourniquet! Shoelaces? Tourniquet! A brassier, bicycle inner tube, long sleeve shirt or sam xt? All tourniquets!

You can make a tourniquet from anything. You don’t need to have the medically recommended tourniquet to save a life.

Besides the tourniquet, you also need a torsion device to tighten the tourniquet and provide maximum blood flow occlusion. The torsion device can be anything depending on your environment. If you are in the woods, don’t look further. Use a stick.

Are you in the house? Use a knife blade.

Like the tourniquet, your imagination will limit your torsion device choice.

Tie the tourniquet

Tie your tourniquet of choice at least two inches away from the wound. Don’t tie it over a joint, as this is where most of the arteries and blood vessels are.

After identifying the right place to tie, tie the tourniquet once using an overhand knot.

With your chosen torsion device on the overhand knot, tie two other overhand knots and secure the torsion device onto the tourniquet. You should then twist the torsion device in one direction until the wound stops bleeding.

Once the bleeding has stopped or slowed, tie the tourniquet on the injured person’s arm or leg. This is to secure the tourniquet in place.

Mark the time

To avoid amputation and nerve damage, medical professionals recommend having the tourniquet for a maximum of two hours, so after applying the tourniquet, mark the time you did it.

Tourniquet mistakes to avoid making

Since applying the tourniquet is a matter of life and death, you need to be cautious, so you don’t make mistakes that could lead to grave consequences. Some of the mistakes you should avoid making include:

Waiting too long: When you wait too long before applying the tourniquet, the injured person might lose a lot of blood and die, so you should treat any blood loss as an emergency and move fast.

Using the wrong material: While there are plenty of materials you can use as tourniquets, you should be wise in your choice of material as some materials such as strings and thin shoelaces can cut into the skin and render the tourniquet ineffective.

For best results, choose wide materials that won’t cut into the skin and worsen the injury.

Loosening the tourniquet: Sometimes, you might feel like you have tightened the tourniquet too much that you want to loosen it. Don’t do it as you can damage the blood vessels by allowing blood to flow back to the injured area. When you constrict the blood vessels and the bleeding stops, leave it that way. Don’t try to loosen it.