Bleeding doesn't always signal an emergency situation. A minor cut doesn't have the same priority as an injury that creates profuse bleeding. No matter what the situation may be, there is one important rule to remember when it comes to treating wounds:
First Things First
You don't have to step on a rusty nail to get a tetanus (lock-jaw) infection. Any wound is susceptible. The best preventative medicine is a tetanus injection every 10 years for everyone in the family. This is expecially important if you enjoy outdoor vacations or do extensive traveling abroad.
Always wash your hands before performing first aid to prevent infection. If soap and water aren't handy, make sure you have “wet naps” in your first aid kit.
Although you don't have to take extreme precautions when it comes to your immediate family, remember that with friends, colleagues, and strangers, it's always best to follow universal safety guidelines to prevent transmission of the HIV virus and other infections via blood. Always wear two pairs of latex gloves, a mask, goggles, and an apron, if possible.
As an extra precaution, make sure any open wounds or cuts on your skin are completely covered before performing first aid.
Where the bleeding is coming from is more important than the amount of blood you see. A minor cut can create profuse bleeding—as anyone who has cut him- or herself shaving knows.
When you check an injured person's vital signs, don't forget to check for signs of bleeding. After you've washed your hands, attend to the wound. Is it near a major artery or vein, such as in the inside of the wrist, along the neck, on the torso area, at the inner thigh, or on the back of the calf? Is it serious enough for stitches? Does the cut appear to be close to the surface? After you've determined where the cut is located, you can take appropriate steps to stop the bleeding, as described in the following paragraphs. And, as always, don't forget your universal safety measures!