A reader sent me this question:
I was wondering if you can stop arterial bleeding with just your hands and no gauze, clothe, etc? Also is it pressure or is it the gauze that stops the bleeding?
That's a great question and I don't think we spend quite enough time on the basics and why they work.
Bleeding control is a truly life saving skill. Each of us has a finite amount of blood and we can only lose about half of it and still survive. Many folks can't risk losing that much. Currently the only thing that can replace lost blood is more blood. There have been a number of synthetic blood products invented, but none of them actually works.
We can use other fluids to expand blood volume and increase blood pressure, a vital need during a serious emergency. Unfortunately, those fluids don't carry oxygen and just serve to dilute the real blood we have left. Paramedics everywhere have stories of infusing liters of saline solution to trauma patients and seeing bleeding go from bright red to the color of pink lemonade.
As you can see, plugging the hole when there's a leak is important. You can indeed plug the hole with just direct pressure, but gauze serves a purpose as well. To see how gauze and direct pressure work together, read his question and my response:
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