What is a Tourniquet?
A tourniquet is a medical device that is used to apply constant pressure to a limb to restrict – but not block – the flow of blood. After an injury, a tourniquet may be used to stop blood from leaving a wound. These would only be used when the wound is large or severe enough to require the halt of blood flow. Tourniquets should only be used when direct pressure is unable to staunch the flow of a wound and should only be applied to treat limb injuries. During a disaster, knowing how to create a makeshift tourniquet can be the difference between saving and losing a life.
Makeshift Tourniquet examples:
- Shirt sleeves
- Pant legs
- Socks (if long/wide enough)
Thin materials such as string, wires, shoelaces, or any other similar object should not be used as a tourniquet as they would not evenly distribute pressure around the limb.
How to Use:
Wrap the tourniquet/material around the limb with an even amount of pressure. The material should lay as flat as possible against the skin to avoid neurovascular damage. If enough material is available, wrap it a few times to create padding. Position the tourniquet/material several inches above the injury and at the part of the limb closest to the heart. For example, if the injury is below the knee, you will need to apply the tourniquet above the joint. Never apply a tourniquet directly on a joint. This will only cause further damage and possible paralyzation to the limb. When using a makeshift tourniquet, knot a stick or other sturdy object on the outside of the tourniquet to create a torsion device. Twist the stick to increase pressure and knot it again to keep it in place. Keep applying direct pressure to the wound even after using a tourniquet.
A tourniquet should only be used in emergency situations until the wounded person can receive immediate medical attention. However, a tourniquet should not be applied for more than two hours. Leaving a tourniquet applied for two hours will result in neurovascular injury.