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How to Use a Tourniquet

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Updated April 17, 2014

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Position and Tie the Tourniquet Above the Wound
Tying a tourniquet above the wound

Tie the tourniquet above the wound (on the side closer to the heart).

© Rod Brouhard
Tourniquets are tight bands used to control bleeding by completely stopping the blood flow to a wound. Tourniquets have a bad rap in the field of emergency first aid. Complications of tourniquet use have led to severe tissue damage. However, tourniquets can arrest bleeding quite well and are useful in cases of severe bleeding that cannot be stopped in any other way.

For a one-page version of this tutorial, see How to Apply a Tourniquet.

If you are not the victim, practice universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if available.

Before using a tourniquet, try using less damaging steps to control bleeding. If the scene is unsafe, and there is no time to attempt other steps, tourniquets can be used to control active bleeding.

Getting Started

To make a tourniquet, use a non-stretchy material, such as terry cloth or a cravat (also known as a triangular bandage), and fold it lengthwise until it's between 1 and 2 inches wide.

Tie the tourniquet around the injured arm or leg, several inches above the injury (the part of the limb closer to the heart). If the injury is below the elbow or knee, you may need to tie the tourniquet above the joint (see photo). Use a common square knot (like tying your shoes without the bow).

Related Video
How to Dress a Wound
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  4. Basic First Aid
  5. Soft Tissue Injuries
  6. Cuts & Bleeding
  7. How to Use a Tourniquet - Position Tourniquet Above the Wound

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