how to stop bleeding

You’re chopping potatoes for dinner and slice your finger. You play with your toddler, who manages to throw his head back right across your nose. Your child falls and slices her forehead on the coffee table edge.

Some injuries bleed more than others, and sometimes you may need to treat wounds at home. Follow these simple steps to stop bleeding at home.

RELATED: What Makes Your Nose Bleed?

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How to Stop Bleeding: A Step-by-Step Guide

Luckily, you can stop the bleeding of most minor injuries at home with just a few steps. Some areas of the body bleed more than others. Your face and scalp have a lot of blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. This can cause an excess of blood to gush from a fairly minor cut.

Don’t freak out: You can quickly handle this.

1. First, wash your hands if you can. You don’t want to introduce any germs or dirt to the wound.

2. Apply pressure to the wound with a cloth or piece of gauze. For a nosebleed, pinch the bridge of your nose. Don’t squeeze your nostrils.

3. Lie down for a head wound, with the head elevated. If the cut is on a limb, raise it above the level of your heart as you apply pressure.

A minor injury should stop bleeding in about 10 or 15 minutes, or less than that in many cases. Once the bleeding stops, be sure to wash your hands again and clean the wound. Use an antibiotic cream before applying a bandage to help prevent infection.

Signs You Should Seek Help for Bleeding

Too much blood loss can lead to shock and other problems. If the bleeding isn’t slowing down, you should go to an emergency room or urgent care center. You may also want to see a doctor if you haven’t had a tetanus shot and think your cut may put you at risk of an infection.

Signs you may need stitches include:

  • A wound that is gaping open, that you aren’t able to close well as you apply pressure.
  • Seeing more than the top layer of skin.
  • Bleeding that doesn’t slow.

As your cut heals, look for signs of infection, such as redness or tenderness around the wound, red streaks coming from the cut, or fever.

For cuts and scrapes that need medical attention, you can avoid the emergency room (and often higher co-pays) by visiting an urgent care center. These clinics have longer hours than regular physician offices and can usually see you quickly.

Learn more by visiting the UPMC Emergency Room care website.

About Trauma & Emergency Medicine

Emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye or the beat of the heart. And when they do, seconds matter. UPMC’s emergency and trauma care services are ready to provide world-class care, no matter how serious your emergency. All our emergency departments have a full-time staff of emergency specialists at the ready 24 hours a day. We use advanced technology to diagnose and treat your condition and coordinate with your doctor to provide the best care possible. We also have specialized trauma care, including Level 1 trauma centers at UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Mercy, a Level 1 pediatric trauma center at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, a Level 2 trauma center at UPMC Hamot, and a trauma center at UPMC Altoona.