First Aid

First Aid: When to Use an Emergency Medical Tourniquet

Tourniquets are often used in movies and other media as a quick and simple way to cut off blood from a wound and stop severe bleeding. However, their use in reality is actually much rarer, and you should only consider using a tourniquet in certain extreme situations.

What is a tourniquet?

The term tourniquet is used to describe any device wrapped around the base of a limb in order to cut off blood from a wound further down the limb. There are professional medical tourniquets and improvised ones made from rope, belts, or whatever else is at hand. They are now used very rarely in medical use.

When you should use a tourniquet

You should always be veru hesitant to use a tourniquet. It should be an absolute last resort, in situation where a life is in danger. You should also only apply one if you’ve received at least basic training for it. Cutting blood flow from a limb can kill it, leading to amputation. Improper use will only make an emergency situation worse.

Attempting to use a tourniquet improperly or during an inappropriate situation is typically not covered by Good Samaritan Laws, and can result in lawsuits and criminal punishment for you. So, you should only use a medical tourniquet in the most dire circumstances. Here are a few occasions when a tounriquete may be appropriate.

When the person has already lost a lot of blood

You should only consider a tourniquet if a person has experienced severe bleeding. This typically means loss of about one liter of blood, with slight variations depending on body size. Until the person has lost this much blood, his or her life isn’t in danger and you should be attempting other first aid. Also, if the blood flow has slowed to a trickle rather than a steady stream you should avoid a tourniquet.

When all other methods have been exhausted

Before you decide to use a medical tourniquet, you should attempt every other possible method of stopping the blood. Elevate the wound, apply pressure, and attempt to bandage it as best as you can. If this doesn’t do a lot to slow the blood, then you may consider applying a medical tourniquet.

When the limb is damaged beyond normal bandaging

Sometimes an injury will occur that messes the limb up so badly, normal application of pressure and bandaging won’t help. For instance, if an arm is completely shattered during a fall and bleeding profusely from several large wounds. Or, if part of the limb is cut or torn off.

When medical help is less than half an hour away

Cutting off blood flow to a limb will cause the tissue there to die very quickly. However, if help is nearby, you may consider applying it for a short time, as long term tissue damage probably won’t occur if professional¬† assistance is used quickly enough.

When you want to temporarily slow blood flow

You might come across a wound that you have an extremely difficult time treating because of the continuous heavy blood flow. In that case, you can apply a temporary touniquet. Then, do your best to treat, bandage, and close the wound in the span of just a few minutes. Once you’ve done as much as you can, release the tourniquet and allow normal blood flow to resume.

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