In the wilderness, serious bleeding must be controlled immediately –  replacement fluids are not readily available. Profuse bleeding has the potential of causing a camper to die within minutes. Cuts, lacerations, puncture wounds or even small lacerations of the scalp, can bleed profusely causing dangerous drops in blood pressure, and leading to shock. For all serious bleeding injuries, treat for shock and seek medical attention as soon as possible. 


When the camper has suffered excessive blood loss, consider the following symptoms:

  • Pale, cool, clammy skin,
  • Fast heart rate,
  • Low blood pressure, 
  • Light headed,
  • Unconsciousness. 


When the camper is bleeding, immediately apply direct pressure to the wound with any available clean material. Continue pressure until the bleeding is controlled. Elevate the wound above the heart. The injured camper should be lying down with the legs elevated.  


If Bleeding Persists 

Secondary pressure may be applied to pressure points between the injured area and the heart to slow bleeding. If bleeding continues, apply a tourniquet between the injury and the heart.  

IMPORTANT – Tourniquets should only be used in life-threatening situations. Note the time the tourniquet was applied and remove it as soon as possible.  

Wound Care 

After the bleeding has been controlled, wash the wound with a disinfectant and carefully remove any excess debris. For large open wounds, irrigate with sterile water or a diluted disinfectant solution. 

Also, consider the following:

  • Scrubbing your hands carefully, 
  • Using latex gloves,
  • Avoid breathing or coughing directly on the wound,
  • Apply appropriate dressings, bandages and/or closures, 
  • Apply antibiotic cream to the inside of the dressing, 
  • Change dressings daily – check for signs of infection. 

Internal Bleeding  

Internal bleeding is often undetected and extremely dangerous. Look for the following symptoms and treat them appropriately: dizziness, fainting, rapid heartbeat, weak pulse, shortness of breath, thirst, loss of skin colour, vomiting blood, blood in the feces or urine, and severe pain or swelling in the abdomen.  

If internal bleeding is suspected, anticipate and treat for shock.

IMPORTANT – The procedures described on this website are not a substitute for medical, first aid or CPR training. Always seek treatment from a trained medical professional whenever possible.



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