How To Apply A Tourniquet
A tourniquet is an emergency medical device that’s used primarily for two purposes – stopping life-threatening hemorrhaging, and controlling severe pain. The purpose of this article is to explain how you use a tourniquet.
Tourniquets are used most often as emergency devices because they stop blood flow quickly and effectively. They’re also used occasionally when there isn’t time to perform certain types of surgery, such as amputation. You can apply a tourniquet to bare skin or over clothing. If you choose to wear one, be sure it fits properly so air doesn’t seep through the fabric. When applying a tourniquet to bare skin, make sure not to put any pressure directly on a wound.
If you have a tourniquet with multiple straps, you’ll want to follow these steps first:
1) Remove all jewelry from your body. This includes necklaces, rings, watches and bangles.
2) Fold back your shirt cuff if wearing pants. Place your hand inside the pant’s waistband and pull up gently until your elbow bends at 90 degrees. Your fingers should point toward your chest. Then slip the band of your underwear down over your pants’ button fly. Now, hold the front part of the underwear securely between your thumb and forefinger.
3) With the other hand, wrap the windlass around your forearm just below the tourniquet and then secure it to keep the tourniquet in place. Next, grab the bottom end of the windlass and bring it up above your head.
4) Gently push both ends of the windlass together so they overlap. Now take the windlass that goes behind your head and insert its tail strap under the overlapping portion of the windlass. Be careful not to touch the metal prongs.
5) Hold onto the windlass firmly but carefully. Now turn the windlass clockwise. As you do, watch out for the sharp spiky edges of the spooled cord. Turn the windlass slowly and only enough to achieve proper placement.
6) Once you’ve turned the windlass far enough, release your grip on it. The windlass will spin freely now. It may help to move your wrist slightly while holding it still.
7) Move the windlass forward to where it will cover your arm completely. Wrap the tail strap around your arm once again, making sure it stays snugly around your bicep.
8) Grasp the windlass’ handle firmly with one hand and keep the spools in contact with each other with the other. Do not let the windlass’ spools separate, even for a moment.
9) Slowly raise the windlass to where it touches your forehead. Keep the spools touching throughout the process.
10) Make sure the tourniquet covers your entire upper arm completely. If it does, remove the windlass. If it doesn’t, adjust the position of the windlass accordingly.
11) Adjust the windlass so that the tail strap rests against your inner elbow. The metal prongs of the windlass should rest against your upper arm. Its lower edge should come right at your elbow joint.
12) Bring the lower edge of the windlass up to your shoulder. The windlass should be covering your whole upper arm now.
13) Insert the tail strap into the space between the windlass and your arm and fasten it off by twisting the lock.
14) While keeping the windlass stable, lift up the tail strap using downward force.
15) Keep lifting the windlass steadily to ensure the tourniquet remains in place.
16) After about five minutes, check the effectiveness of the tourniquet by releasing your grasp on the windlass and watching closely. If the bleeding has stopped, tighten the windlass again. Repeat this procedure every 15 minutes until the bleeding ceases.
17) Allow yourself to rest for at least one hour. Try to avoid moving your injured limb during this period. You can loosen the windlass after half an hour and then retighten it if necessary.
18) If the bleeding continues, elevate your injury above the heart level and try to maintain this elevation for another four hours.
19) Keep changing positions frequently to reduce the risk of developing bedsores.
20) Never allow anyone else to operate the tourniquet on you.
21) Wear loose fitting garments made of cotton, linen or wool. These fabrics breathe better than synthetic ones.
22) If possible, stay away from alcohol, aspirin and caffeine. Alcohol increases the risk of shock; aspirin produces excessive internal bleeding; and coffee reduces the amount of oxygen available to the tissues.
23) Keep the area clean and dry. Soak areas affected by moisture with hydrogen peroxide solution.
24) Wash your hands thoroughly before removing the tourniquet.
25) Get immediate professional attention if the tourniquet slips and cuts off circulation to your affected limb.
26) For minor injuries, consider taking nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Ibuprofen relieves inflammation and fever more effectively than acetaminophen.
27) Use ice packs to alleviate pain and swelling.
28) Elevate your injured limb above the heart level whenever possible.
29) Don’t smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco. Smoking interferes with clotting mechanisms in the bloodstream. Chewing tobacco irritates the gums and causes ulcers.
30) Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Fluids prevent dehydration, which leads to low blood volume and inadequate blood supply to vital organs.
31) Take short walks regularly. Walking helps improve circulation and keeps muscles flexible and strong.
32) Avoid standing long periods. Change positions frequently. Sit upright instead of slouching.
33) Sleep well. Sleeplessness disrupts normal sleep patterns. Deep, uninterrupted sleep helps restore energy levels.
34) Eat healthy foods. Foods rich in nutrients promote healing and good health. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins C and E, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and fiber. Lean protein foods provide essential amino acids needed for repair and growth. Fresh fruits and vegetables also offer many antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Good nutrition contributes to overall fitness and vitality.
35) Exercise regularly. Exercising strengthens muscles, improves flexibility and promotes weight control. Just 30 minutes of walking daily can significantly decrease the risk of hip fracture among postmenopausal women. Regular exercise enhances mental alertness, memory and concentration.
36) Keep a positive attitude. Staying optimistic stimulates healing processes without creating unrealistic expectations.
37) Follow the instructions provided by your doctor.
38) Discuss the benefits and risks of tourniqueting with your physician.
39) Check the effectiveness of the tourniquet periodically. Releasing and tightening the tourniquet too soon may cause loss of function.
40) Dispose of the tourniquet safely.
In conclusion, a tourniquet is a valuable tool for preventing death or serious bodily harm due to uncontrolled hemorrhage. But it can also save lives by controlling severe pain. And remember, don’t ever forget to wash your hands!
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