The average adult has about six litres of blood within their body. We do have a small amount of surplus blood in stock, however this can quickly diminish if a wound opens on the skin. The majority of the time we suffer minor wounds that have the capacity to heal themselves. However in more serious circumstances major bleeding can occur, which requires fast thinking in order to stem blood flow, and ultimately save a life.
The human body has a network of arteries that are like a motorway linking a country together. Their role is to deliver oxygenated blood to the demanding organs and tissues within the body. The beating of the heart forces the blood to travel at high speeds through the arteries, which lie deep under our skin to protect us from the outside environment. They flow through the arms, legs and up towards the brain. Damage to the structures can lead to death within minutes.
A person who is first on the scene of an accident needs to recognise an artery wound. The obvious signs would be extreme blood loss that leaves the body in time with the heartbeat. If you recognise these symptoms it is important to immediately call the emergency services, and then apply direct pressure with your hands on the wound. Unlike with smaller more manageable wounds there is probably not time to prepare neat and sterile bandages. Easy to reach triangular bandages can be tied around the wound to help stem the flow. If there is no access to a first aid kit then a common t-shirt or towel can be used.
Blood loss on average of 0.5 litres is enough to deprive the body of oxygen and can lead to death. How a first aider reacts in the first few minutes of major bleeding could be the difference between life and death. Ideally the person giving the treatment would have been on a first aid course, but in reality not everyone has access to such training. It is very common for an average member of the public to suddenly find themselves dealing with major bleeding. If you find yourself in this situation then remember to apply direct pressure with your hands to stem the flow of blood. You should keep this pressure in place until the emergency services arrive.
There is also a network of veins that run throughout the body. The role of the veins is to transport un-oxygenated blood back to the right side of the heart where it is then pumped back towards the lungs to pick up more oxygen. If the veins get damaged then the blood is likely to pool at the site of the wound, and will be a dark red colour as a result of having no oxygen. This type of wound also requires fast thinking as unless pressure is applied the blood flow will not stop. Bandages can be used as a way of applying pressure. Flow wrapped bandages found in most first aid kits are ideal, and if applied tightly can limit blood loss. Damages to veins require urgent medical care, and you should never hesitate in calling the emergency services.
First aid courses provide a way of learning simple life saving skills. If you do not feel that you have the time or money for a course then there is still no reason why you can’t begin to learn the skills. Practice at home with family and friends tying a t-shirt around the upper part of the leg. Then try holding two hands over the cloth, which is exactly what would be required in a real life incident.